Cheltenham recycling truck fire caused by a battery pack

A Cheltenham Township recycling truck caught fire on Thursday, July 8th, and ended up having to dump its contents on the street near the corner of Asbury Avenue and Richards Road. The fire was put out by the Elkins Park Fire Company and attributed to a battery pack for a drill.

The fire led the township’s manager, Robert A. Zienkowski, to write a letter to residents asking them to follow the township’s recycling regulations. When examining the truck’s contents that had been dumped on the street, the township manager states that in addition to the batteries a “significant number of other non-recyclable materials” were among the recyclable items.

Below is the letter.

July 8, 2021 

Dear Cheltenham Neighbors,

I am writing today to inform you of an incident that occurred just after 9:00am this morning: one of our Township’s automated recycling trucks was reported on fire at the corner of Asbury Avenue and Richards Road.  Due to where the fire was in the truck, the nearly full load had to be dumped in the roadway. The Elkins Park Fire Company responded to quickly put out the fire, saving the truck from permanent damage. The cause of the fire was found to be a battery pack for a drill, inside a plastic bag.

Neither of the above items is permitted in our single-stream recycling collections. As the whole load of recycling was dumped in the street, Township staff noted a significant number of other non-recyclable materials. Not only did this incident cost the Township in damages to equipment, but continual disregard for recycling regulations results in entire loads of contaminated recycling having to now be sent to the landfill.  Rejected loads of recycling also add additional costs to our Township Refuse collection expenses.  What’s more, this morning’s fire created a public safety hazard, and if the fire company had not acted so quickly, this may have resulted in serious injury to staff, firefighters and police officers, our residents, and/or personal property.

I implore each of you to do your part to keep Cheltenham clean, green, and safe for all members of our community.  Pictures of today’s incident are included with this letter, as is a list of non-recyclable items as a refresher.  Recycling guidelines can also be found on our website and in the Township calendar.  If you have questions or concerns, please contact the Public Works Refuse/Recycling Superintendent at 215-887-6200 ext. 342.

Thank you for your time and consideration!


Robert A. Zienkowski
Township Manager

Details on the township’s recycling program can be found here.

Photos: Cheltenham Township