Garbage Truck Fires 🧯: One of the worst images people do not want to see is witnessing something ablaze with the smoke encapsulating an entire city or suburb. Garbage trucks, unfortunately, are common victims of this circumstance. How do garbage truck fires even start and what can we do to prevent them from happening?  

Imagine walking peacefully in the park, just staring into the trees and having yourself a good time when suddenly, out of nowhere, you see a garbage truck catching fire with a firetruck and firefighters responding to quell the flames.

This exact scenario happened last year on 8 November 2022 when the Georges River Council contractors driving a garbage truck needed to empty a load of its transported recyclable items because of seeing smoke coming out. The main culprit? Batteries.

A bit earlier, on 23 March 2022, a Cleanaway garbage truck was also forced to let go of its load in a Bulkham Hills Reserve after it caught fire. This event also had a similar cause: batteries and tossed-out other hazardous waste in the recycling bin (i.e., yellow bin).

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These separate, yet similar events, happen way too often than we want to. Why do you think that is? And how can we prevent garbage trucks from catching fire happening? Below, we cover everything you should know about garbage truck fires – how they happen and how we can prevent them.

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Everything you should know about garbage truck fires

Seeing a garbage truck on fire is probably the last thing you want to see in your neighbourhood. But alas, this phenomenon has occurred a number of times already. As I have mentioned above, why do you think that is?

Is it because of a faulty truck? The answer is no. Much more often than not, the garbage truck itself is not the problem and the cause of a fire. The main reason is the truck’s load. Most often, flammable household items are the main cause of fires. Below, we give you the most common flammable household items which usually cause fires that you should take note of.

Highly flammable household items

  •  Aerosols – One of the most common household items we all have at home is aerosols. We often see these pressurised containers in the form of air fresheners, cleaning products, cooking sprays, deodorants, spray paints, sunscreens and more. These can easily burst into flames if they come in contact with open flames.
  • Alcohol – Similar to aerosols, alcohol is one of the most common household items people have. It has lots of uses but most people are not aware that it is highly flammable. Alcohol can easily start a fire if it comes in contact with open flames.
  • Ashes – This household item is mainly used for gardening purposes outside the house. This flammable item is a sleeper as some do not know its potential to catch fire in a disposed load full of other potent flammable items. A lot of people do not realise the length of time for ash to cool down enough to dispose of. Ashes can retain enough heat to start a fire even after several days have already passed.
  • Batteries – As you have read at the start of the blog, batteries were the main culprits of both garbage truck fire situations. Batteries are sensitive to high temperatures and are inherently flammable. Lithium-ion batteries, for example, catch fire because of their composition of organic solvents. They also contain oxygen (not flammable, but can cause other materials to ignite and burn) in their cathode that may be released if subjected to heat, internal shortage or pressure.

What do we learn from this? Quite a simple learning, really – yes, the main cause of garbage truck fires is the truck’s load, but we also have to realise that the reason the truck’s load catches fire is that a majority of people do not dispose of their garbage or rubbish properly. So, what can we do about that?


Garbage truck fires: some preventive tips

As a recycling and waste company ourselves, we here at Waster would like to remind people, including our clients/customers, of course, to mind what you put inside your garbage or rubbish and recycling bins, especially if they put hazardous and flammable items.

An unaware person may find it harmless to throw a few items in their garbage bins such as batteries or aerosols, but doing so risks causing garbage truck fires. Things could quickly get out of hand even with just a few hazardous and flammable items inside.

Obviously, a lot of disasters can and will happen if you don’t properly dispose of your items, especially those that can catch fire easily. Garbage truck fires can quickly spread and cause injuries, deaths and destruction all around.


Things to remember

An uber-simple thing as being mindful of what you throw in your garbage bin will go a long way. Put simply, it prevents dangers such as garbage truck fires from happening. It keeps you, the waste collectors and everyone else safe and sound.

It can be quite confusing to know how to properly dispose of waste, but a bit of research can help. Your local council’s website contains lots of information, which includes safely disposing of hazardous items. There are also events being held in different locations that collect hazardous chemical materials such as NSW’s Household Chemical Cleanout and SA’s Green Industries SA Free Household Chemicals. Give them a call, as well, if you want to learn more.


Contact Waster right now for your waste and recycling needs now!

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