Shropshire residents urged to recycle batteries after rise in fires

A waste disposal company operating in Shropshire is urging residents to recycle batteries appropriately after a rise in battery fires.

Veolia is asking people to only use specialist recycling services in a bid to tackle the growing number of fires caused by discarded dead batteries.

The waste disposal company, which runs services for Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin councils, is making the call in line with the national Take Charge campaign.

Dead batteries thrown away with other waste and recycling, which the campaign refers to as "zombie batteries", are likely to be crushed or punctured once they are collected and processed.

Some batteries can ignite or even explode when they are damaged. Once this happens, batteries can quickly set fire to other materials in the waste, leading to serious incidents that put lives at risk.

Although safe to use normally, powerful lithium-ion batteries are typically the most dangerous if they are not recycled properly. These batteries are often found in products like laptops, tablets, mobile phones, radio-controlled toys, bluetooth devices, shavers, electric toothbrushes, power tools, scooters and E-cigarettes.

Residents in Telford & Wrekin are being reminded they can recycle used batteries by presenting them for collection at the same time as their household recycling as long as they are presented in a separate bag and placed on top of the purple-top wheelie bin. Batteries should never be mixed with other waste in any collection containers.

Councillor Lee Carter, Telford & Wrekin Council cabinet member for neighbourhood services, said: “We know that our residents want to do the right thing with their waste, and so I hope they hear this appeal.

"We urge everyone to please, please recycle batteries responsibly by presenting them separately in a clear bag on top of their purple-top wheelie bins.”

The recycling and waste management trade body, the Environmental Services Association (ESA), which launched the campaign, conducts an annual survey of its members to record the proportion of fires occurring at recycling and waste facilities that are known or thought to have been started by lithium-ion batteries in particular.

Recent data collected by the ESA shows that, between April 2019 and March 2020, lithium-ion batteries alone were thought to be responsible for more than 250 fires at its members’ facilities during the year – or well over a third of all fires.

Members of the ESA hope that by encouraging the public to recycle batteries responsibly, it will reduce the number of “zombie batteries” present in general waste and recycling, thereby reducing the number of fires in future.

Gavin Graveson, executive vice president at Veolia UK and Ireland said: “Battery induced fires are a serious and unfortunately, growing hazard that Veolia is combatting. We are asking people to take extra care when recycling their old electronics. The average UK resident throws away around 24.5kg of electronics every year. These materials, if treated properly can be a gift to the planet, returning valuable resources back to safe collection points to be used again.”

Executive director of the ESA, Jacob Hayler, said: “Unfortunately, the majority of batteries thrown away in the UK at the moment are not recycled properly. Fires caused by carelessly discarded batteries endanger lives, cause millions of pounds of damage and disrupt waste services. We urge consumers to please recycle batteries responsibly by using widely available local battery recycling services.”

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