“Earlier this month a resident put 58 rounds of live ammunition into their recycling,” said David Lefebvre, director of public affairs for Recycle BC. “We need people to think before they put something that is potentially explosive and deadly into a recycling bin.”
Recycle BC audits found two-thirds of container loads had hazardous materials present in 2019, a 47 per cent increase over the last five years. Those materials include: butane and propane canisters, batteries (especially lithium-ion batteries), compressed gases, ammunition, knives and bear spray.
“Hazardous materials have a significant impact on our staff. We are concerned about their safety and the potential for someone to be injured or worse,” said Alisa Murray, health and safety coordinator at Cascades Recovery.
“They can cause explosions and fires, and most of these incidents are caused by residents placing items such as lithium-ion batteries and propane or butane canisters into the residential recycling,” Lefebvre added.
Across North America, the industry saw a 26 per cent increase in the number of fires in waste and recycling facilities in 2018, with 371 unique incidents reported between February 2018 and January 2019. The risk of fires or explosions is especially high for material collection vehicles and receiving facilities, due to large amounts of paper.