Hills Waste Solutions, which handles waste recycling in Wiltshire, supports the new national Take Charge campaign, which urges consumers to only recycle dead batteries using specialist battery recycling services, and to never throw batteries away alongside general rubbish or other recycling.
Henry Newbery, recycling manager at Swindon-based Hills, said: “Used batteries can be easily recycled at any of Wiltshire’s household recycling centres.
“This campaign’s website, www.takecharge.org.uk, has an online postcode checker where consumers can find other local battery recycling points.”
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 the waste is collected and processed.
Some battery types in particular, like lithium-ion (Li-ion) and nickel-metal Hydride (NiMH), can ignite or even explode when they’re damaged.
Once this happens, the batteries can quickly set fire to other materials present in the waste, like paper, 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 even e-cigarettes.
The recycling and waste management trade body, the Environmental Services Association, 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 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 – 38 per cent of all fires.
ESA members 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.
Mr Newbery added: “We have experienced incidents at our recycling facility and in a waste collection vehicle where batteries thrown away with other recycling have ignited.
“If it was not for the quick reaction of our staff to extinguish them, these could have caused serious injury to people not only from fire but also noxious fumes, and damage to the plant.”