Grilling more during Covid-19? Remember to play it cool with the coals

Oh boy! The neighborhood is full of the sweet smells of fresh-cut grass, blooming flowers, and that unmistakable aroma of grilled goodness.

Barbecue season has arrived, and this year, with stay-at-home-orders in place, many of us are grilling more than ever. So it’s a good time for a reminder that, while a great cookout begins with hot coals in the grill, it should never end with hot coals 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 yet, in the garbage truck.

It happens every year. Hot coals melt carts to the ground and cause load fires in trucks, forcing drivers to make emergency stops to dump entire loads. This poses a safety risk to you, your Waste Management driver, and the community.

What can you do to avoid this hot coal calamity?

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

• Put cooled coals in metal containers and douse them with water before bagging them and disposing of them in the garbage cart.

• Never put coals in the recycling or yard waste carts. Hot or cold, they will contaminate the whole load. As a result, recyclable materials and yard waste that would typically be used to make new materials and compost will end up in the landfill.

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

Keep these safety tips in mind for a summer of safe (and delicious) grilling.

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

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