Batteries starting fires at Yellowknife’s landfill, city says

Last modified: August 24, 2022 at 11:05am

Batteries tossed in the garbage are causing landfill fires, the City of Yellowknife said in a plea for residents to more carefully dispose of some waste.

In a news release on Monday, the city said lithium-ion batteries that should end up in the dump’s hazardous waste section were being thrown away in regular garbage, with dangerous consequences.

“The solid waste facility has had two recent fires where the source of ignition was suspected to have been caused by improper waste disposal,” the city stated.


“Our staff and crews quickly controlled these fires, but we remind residents it is extremely important that batteries and other hazardous waste are properly sorted and separated from all household waste and properly disposed of.”

The City of Yellowknife issued an image of what it said was a battery after contact with a compactor
The City of Yellowknife issued an image of what it said was a battery after contact with a compactor.

The city said lithium-ion batteries become highly flammable if damaged or compressed, a problem when regular garbage is compacted in trucks and at the dump.

“These sparks can cause fires that can spread and create air quality concerns for residents,” the city stated.

Yellowknife is only the latest in a string of Canadian cities to issue similar warnings.

Fredericton, Kamloops and Moose Jaw have all recently reported fires attributed to discarded batteries. The Kamloops fire involved an e-bike battery, while a worker in Fredericton received burns when a lithium-ion battery exploded nearby.


Last year, a study in the United States documented at least 245 fires “caused by, or likely caused by, lithium metal or lithium-ion batteries” in the country’s dumps between 2013 and 2020, though the report’s authors said many more likely were never fully recorded or publicized.

Some of those fires “destroyed entire facilities and caused millions in damages,” the US Environmental Protection Agency added.

A guide to disposal of batteries and electronics can be found on the NWT government’s website.

After this article was first published, the territory said batteries can go to any community’s electronics recycling depot, which in Yellowknife is the bottle depot. Collection events are held in communities without such a depot.


The City of Yellowknife has information about disposal of household hazardous waste in the city on its website.