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On January 14, 2021, a load of recyclables within a Streets Division collection truck burst into flames. Thankfully, the operator was able to act fast to keep herself safe and unload the burning recyclables into the street to save the vehicle from burning. The Madison Fire Department responded swiftly to extinguish the fire. The burnt and ruined recyclables were sent to the landfill.

The exact cause of this fire is unknown.

However, lithium-ion batteries, the same ones used to power cell phones, vape pens, laptops, electric bicycles, and many other electronics, are very often the reason for these incidents. Fires at recycling facilities and within recycling trucks from lithium batteries are a worldwide problem.

What should you do with lithium batteries?
Never place batteries, particularly lithium batteries, into your recycling carts at your home.

The City of Madison Streets Division offers battery recycling for Madison residents at the drop-off sites.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources also has additional information on how to handle batteries on their website.

What can you put into your recycling cart?
For residents of the City of Madison, you have an abundance of resources to learn what you can place into your green curbside recycling cart. You can check the website, check your recycling cart lid, check your Recyclopedia booklet, or maybe even check your refrigerator if you have requested a free recycling magnet.

Contamination within our recycling is at an all-time high. Nearly 19% of everything placed into our recycling carts does not belong. While not all contamination is as physically dangerous as lithium batteries, all of it hurts the system, increases costs, and can damage or jam sorting equipment.

Additional Information
More information about battery recycling can be found at the Wisconsin DNR’s website.

Additional information about Madison’s recycling program, along with other services provided by the Streets Division, can be found at