Get fired up for barbecue season, but play it cool with coals

Here’s what you can do to avoid starting a fire in a trash cart or in the back of a Waste Managment truck.

As we emerge from our dark and isolated winter and stepping into the bright summer sunlight, it’s like we’re taking off an itchy heavy coat. Family and friends are gathering in the safety of the outdoors for patio picnics and backyard barbecues.

Grillin’ and chillin’ season is here. It’s also a good time for a reminder that, while a great cookout may begin with hot coals in the grill, it should never end with hot coals and fresh ash in the garbage.

Barbecue coals can be deceiving. They often look like they’re cool but can retain their fire-starting heat for days. If they end up in the garbage before they are truly out, they can spark a fire in your garbage cart, or worse, in the garbage truck.

It happens every year. Seventy-five percent of Waste Management’s waste and recycling collection truck fires are a result of the improper disposal of materials such as hot barbecue coals and ashes.

Here’s what you can do to avoid starting a fire in a trash cart or in the back of one of our trucks:

Let coals cool for several days. Put used coals in metal containers and dowse them with water before disposing of them in the garbage cart.

Never put coals or fresh ash in the recycling or yard waste carts. Even when cold, they will contaminate the whole load. As a result, recyclable materials that would normally be used to make new products will end up in the landfill. The same is true for yard waste intended for compost; tossing coals into the yard waste cart will contaminate the material and result in the whole load going to the landfill.

Better yet, spread the cooled coals and ash in the garden. They’re full of great nutrients.

So, cook yourself up a great summer. Just play it cool with the coals.

Hannah Scholes is the recycling education & outreach manager for Waste Management. For the latest information on collection services in your community, go to

Coal and ash disposal tips

Please follow these simple rules to help keep your community safe:

• Cool coals for several days before disposing.

• Do not use galvanized containers.

• Never place used coals in plastic, paper or wood containers.

• To speed the cooling process, carefully place coals in a metal container full of water to extinguish any residuals.

• Do not place other combustibles in the container with the coals or ashes.

Source: Waste Management

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