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Why garbage collectors are most concerned during the month of July

SALT LAKE CITY — Garbage collectors are adding their voices to fire officials and elected leaders calling for caution when it comes to fireworks, backyard barbecues and your safety.

Jeffrey Summerhays with Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District says fireworks, ashes and used charcoal stay hot and can burn for a long time after use. He says discarding your coals in the trash without dousing them thoroughly could lead to big problems especially for the people who collect your garbage. Summerhays says they’ve had many of their trucks catch fire.

Utah fire officials say they respond to dozens of house fires each year sparked by discarded fireworks or coals placed in plastic garbage bins stationed next to the sides of homes.

Summerhays says when really warm coals and used fireworks mix with paper or other flammable materials, they can smolder and burst into flames.

However, there are other challenges for garbage collectors beyond summer cookouts and fireworks. Summerhays says the most challenging issue is with people throwing away lithium ion batteries at all times of the year.  In other words, those batteries that recharge and are most commonly found in electronic devices like cell phones, laptops and other everyday items.

He says these batteries are constructed with chemicals and they react very aggressively to water.  There’s a much greater chance the discarded batteries will come into contact with water in a garbage truck.  And with all the other flammable materials in the vehicle, they will catch fire.