Hot coals and other flammable materials can cause fires in a Waste Management truck, putting the community at risk. Photo courtesy of Waste Management

Hot coals and other flammable materials can cause fires in a Waste Management truck, putting the community at risk. Photo courtesy of Waste Management

Got your grill on?

Hot coals – great for burgers, bad for garbage.

  • Monday, August 12, 2019 8:30am
  • Opinion

By Hannah Scholes

Special to the Reporter

Summer has finally arrived in Kirkland. The sun is shining, gardens are thriving, and the neighborhood pool is overflowing with children and their gleeful screams.

Now add the smell of sizzling veggies and burgers wafting through the air. Yes, it’s time to get your grill on!

It’s also time make sure your summer meal plan includes cooling and wetting down coals after the barbecue.

If you don’t, hot coals could start a fire — in your garbage container, in the Waste Management truck that collects your garbage or even down the road at the transfer station or landfill.

Hot coals can lead to a fire that can melt a garbage container. Photo courtesy of Waste Management

Hot coals can lead to a fire that can melt a garbage container. Photo courtesy of Waste Management

While coals and ashes appear cool, they can stay hot for days after cooking is over. And when they are disposed of while still hot, coals can create fire risk for your family, neighbors and local Waste Management drivers.

And it happens often. Throughout the summer, Waste Management drivers have to make emergency stops to empty their trucks and call the fire department to fight fires caused by hot coals put in containers.

In fact, a fire broke out in the back of a Waste Management truck in a commercial area in the Puget Sound region in July. Someone had tossed flammable materials into a garbage dumpster. The driver did exactly as he was trained: he pulled over, dumped his load, and worked with firefighters to put out the fire. As a result, no one was injured and there was no damage to local businesses.

Even so, flammable materials in the garbage created a safety risk for the community — a danger that could have been avoided.

Waste Management drivers even come across containers that have melted to the ground because of carelessly handled ashes or coals, and local firefighters frequently respond to fires in both garbage and recycling containers.

Even after they are cool, putting coals or ashes in your recycling or yard debris container results in the whole container going to the landfill because everything is contaminated.

So, as you embrace all that is fun and delicious about summer, Waste Management urges you to add safety to your backyard barbecue plans, to protect yourself and our community.

Safety tips for coals and ashes

Let coals and ashes cool for several days in the grill or fireplace before handling.

After they are cool, transfer them to a metal container and wet them down. Keep the container outside and away from combustibles.

Do not use galvanized containers, as hot coals will release noxious fumes when in contact with galvanized metal.

Do not place other combustibles in the container.

Once coals and ashes are completely cool, bag them and put them in your garbage container or bring them to a transfer station or landfill. Better yet, spread them around the garden or add to your compost bin.

Never put coals or ashes in recycling or yard debris containers!

Here’s to a summer of safe (and delicious) grilling.

Hannah Scholes is Waste Management’s recycling education and outreach manager. To see what’s recyclable in Kirkland go to WMNorthwest.com/Kirkland.


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