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Li-ion Battery Fires Caused $78 Million in Damage in 4 Years Across Japan

The environment ministry in Japan is urging caution as there have been multiple fires caused by lithium-ion batteries, commonly found in portable chargers and other products, occurring in garbage trucks and waste disposal facilities. It is believed that the increase in the variety of products utilizing these batteries is the reason for the recurring fires. The Ministry of the Environment has issued a warning to consumers, advising them to carefully inspect such products and dispose of them in accordance with the regulations set by local governments.

A waste disposal facility in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, experienced a fire on February 21st, resulting in significant damage to the incinerator and reducing its trash-burning capacity by approximately 30%. As a result, the city declared a “garbage emergency” from April to July, urging residents to reduce waste and properly separate their trash. An investigation revealed that the fire was caused by including items containing lithium-ion batteries in the “combustible garbage” mix.

Similar incidents have occurred throughout Japan, with the environment ministry reporting a rise in fires attributed to lithium-ion batteries. In the fiscal year 2020, there were 12,765 such fires, compared to 9,732 the previous year. According to a Japanese safety administrative institution, these fires between fiscal years 2018 and 2021 resulted in approximately 11.1 billion yen (around $78 million) in damages.

Lithium-ion batteries, commonly found in rechargeable electronic devices like smartphones, wireless earphones, and portable fans, can ignite and cause fires if crushed or ruptured in garbage trucks and waste processing facilities.

A survey conducted by the Environment Ministry in fiscal year 2021 revealed that portable chargers were the primary cause of fires in 154 out of the 255 municipalities where incidents related to lithium-ion batteries occurred. Heated tobacco products, cordless vacuum cleaners, and smartphones were also common causes.

The collection methods for lithium-ion batteries vary from municipality to municipality, and some local governments still need to collect them. Consumers are encouraged to identify products that use lithium-ion batteries and consider utilizing the trash collection services provided by manufacturers, retailers, and local governments.

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