LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Republic Services in Las Vegas is warning customers not to throw away old cell phones due to the risk of fire from lithium batteries.

"We're using disc screens often made out of metal that are jarring materials around and if one of those lithium batteries gets compressed or punctures on one of those screens, it can combust and actually start fires," said Republic Services spokesperson Jeremy Walters.

Lithium batteries can also start a fire in residential areas if a collection truck compactor damages a lithium battery.  

"Most of our collection trucks have some sort of compactor or scraper in the back of the truck that is packing the material so they can fit large quantities of waste in them. And again, if we're dealing with these lithium batteries under pressure, they have the potential to explode.," said Walters.

The risk of fire increases exponentially once lithium batteries reach the recycling center.

 "If we have fire risks here at the recycling center, it's going to cause tremendous concern for our employees and then obviously the center itself. If we lose this facility, this is where all the residential recycling is going for Southern Nevada. If we lose this facility, we won't have anywhere to send the recyclable material," Walters said.

With July Fourth around the corner, fireworks are yet another concern at Republic Services.

“When that smoldering firework gets the oxygen, it ignites and you can see we have so much paper in here. That's a great fuel source for a fire to start," said Walters.

Copyright 2019 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved

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