Keep recycling workers, facilities and the environment safe with these tips

Recycle2Are you tossing your cell phone and laptop batteries into your blue bin? How about lighters, propane or butane canisters? If yes—then potentially—you are causing explosions and fires at material recovery facilities and in material collection vehicles, endangering the lives of the province's recycling collectors and processors.

There is an alarming increase of hazardous waste that British Columbians are depositing in the province's residential recycling stream, a behaviour that has caused a resurgence of concern by Recycle BC.

Follow these expert tips—to rethink what you recycle and where—and to help keep recycling workers, facilities and the environment safe from not-accepted, hazardous materials...

1. Problem materials

    When incorrectly disposed, there are numerous materials that can pose a health risk or cause personal injury or even death to collectors and processors, and destruction to B.C. recycling facilities. Recycle BC audits of materials in 2019 found that two thirds of loads of containers had hazardous materials present.

    From items related to camping and outdoor living, like propane tanks for home barbecues and camp stoves, to electronics including mobile devices, curbside recycling collection does not accept the following materials:

    • Lithium-ion and household batteries
    • Single-use propane and butane canisters
    • Needles
    • Flammable liquids
    • Helium tanks
    • Knives
    • Flares
    • Electronics
    • Bear spray
    • Ammunition
    • Lighters
    • Paint

    2. Read warning labels

    Hazardous materials should not only be kept out of recycling bins but also out of the waste stream as well. For example, when household batteries end up in landfills they can leak toxic mercury and lead, contaminating the soil and groundwater. Always read the label. Any product left in packaging that contain corrosive, toxic, flammable, or reactive components can cause major problems at the recycling facility and are often labelled with hazard text/symbols: CAUTION, WARNING, CORROSIVE, EXPLOSIVE, FLAMMABLE, POISONOUS or TOXIC. Keep these materials out of your residential recycling bins.

    3. Be aware on not-accepted materials

    Recycle3Be mindful what you put in your recycling bins and ensure it's an accepted material and 100% empty—not something that is potentially explosive and deadly. The risk for fires or explosions is especially high for material collection vehicles and receiving facilities due to significant amounts of paper, as well as the opportunity for the items to be compressed, causing explosions. The combination of easily flammable material, plenty of oxygen and large amounts of material where sparks can smolder undetected for lengthy periods, makes the presence of hazardous material especially precarious. View the materials accepted in your curbside recycling bin as part of the Recycle BC program.

    4. Take action, and change behaviours

      Be part of the solution to help prevent potential tragedies and ensure waste workers are not exposed to the risk of explosions or fires. Do not put hazardous materials in your recycling bins, your garbage cans, or down the drain/toilet. Don't just assume because it's recyclable that it belongs in a particular bin or that checking for a triangle symbol before tossing whatever it is in the blue bin is due diligence; it's not. It only takes a few minutes to plan ahead to properly dispose of your hazardous waste.

      5. Find a location to recycle or dispose safely

        Recycle1When material is not allowed in the curbside bin, it doesn't mean it can't be recycled somewhere else. Find a disposal location so problem items can be processed safely. Visit RecycleBC.ca/Hazardous to learn more and access the online depot search tool. You can also download the latest version of the free Recycle BC app to find your closest recycling depot or find out what can be recycled.

        CREATED BY BCLIVING, IN PARTNERSHIP WITH  RECYCLE BC