A big piece of the end-of-life plan for lithium batteries is recycling and there is only one place in North America currently capable of carrying out that procedure. That facility, owned and operated by Toxco Waste Management in southeastern British Columbia, experienced a large fire last Saturday after suffering through a series of explosions. The event, which happened after-hours, seems to have started in a lithium storage building and created an impressive fireworks display for about 45 minutes. No one was hurt and the main facility remained unscathed, though firefighters at the scene couldn't use their hoses to put out the lithium-fire since it is reactive to water. Officials reportedly were told the explosions produced sulphur dioxide and lithium hydroxide emissions. A statement on Toxco's website addressing the incident says, "The fire did not result in any negative impacts to the environment of the surrounding area." British Columbia Environment Ministry officials have visited the site to make their own assessment.
Lithium batteries from across the US and Canada, mostly from phones and laptops, are stored at the site in earth-covered bunkers chilled to -324 degrees. The low temperature is supposed to make the chemicals inert and prevent incidents like this from happening. The exact cause of the fire is under investigation though arson is not suspected. Toxco, which has a recycling agreement with Tesla Motors, has plans to add lithium battery recycling to their pre-existing facility in Ohio. Thanks to Jeff for the tip!
[Source: The Globe and Mail / Vancouver Sun]