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Lithium-ion batteries, electronic devices could soon be banned from NH landfills

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Lithium-ion batteries, electronic devices could soon be banned from NH landfills

Jun 14, 2024 | 4:21 pm ET
By Claire Sullivan
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Lithium-ion batteries, electronic devices could soon be banned from NH landfills
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House Bill 1386, now headed to the governor, would ban disposal of lithium-ion batteries – and the electronic devices that often contain them – in New Hampshire landfills and incinerators. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

This story was updated at 8:59 a.m. on June 17 to include additional types of waste prohibited under current law.

Lithium-ion batteries are frequent culprits of landfill fires. A bill that would ban disposal of them – and the electronic devices that often contain them – in New Hampshire landfills and incinerators is headed to the governor’s desk.

The Legislature gave its final approval to House Bill 1386 on Thursday, agreeing to changes to the bill made during a committee of conference.

Current law already bans the disposal of yard waste and wet-cell batteries, commonly used in cars, in landfills and incinerators. It also prohibits some electronic waste, including “video display devices, central processing units of computers, and video display media recorders/players.” This measure, if approved by the governor, would ban a number of additional items, including:

  • Lithium-ion batteries;
  • Wireless telephones;
  • Printers;
  • Copiers;
  • Fax machines; and
  • Computer accessories, such as keyboards, mice, video cameras and speakers, external hard drives, memory storage devices, and scanners.

The bill would also require owners and operators of these facilities to take steps to prevent the disposal of the batteries and electronics. That includes posting informational signs or providing written notice of the ban.

The bill also requires owners and operators, municipalities, and solid waste districts to issue educational materials on recycling these items and, if possible, provide recycling opportunities.

Lithium-ion batteries are known to or suspected of starting at least three fires in New Hampshire and two in neighboring states in the last four years, according to Reagan Bissonnette, executive director of the Northeast Resource Recovery Association, a recycling nonprofit.

Those fires “can contribute to air pollution and cause respiratory issues, from the toxic smoke and ash released from the burning batteries and garbage,” said attorney Nora Bosworth with the Zero Waste Project in a February letter in support of the bill. 

They can also “release heavy metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium into the soil and water,” Bosworth said.

The state fire marshal, Sean P. Toomey, supported the bill and said it was critical the batteries are disposed of at a battery recycling center and never in the regular trash. Residents can search for proper drop-off locations near them using an online tool by Call2Recycle.