Suffolk Waste Partnership backs national campaign to raise awareness of safe battery disposal

18 Aug 2022

Waste batteries

Suffolk Waste Partnership is backing a nationwide campaign urging people to safely dispose of old batteries in a bid to avoid starting fires in refuse vehicles and waste processing facilities.

The Partnership has signed up to the Stop Battery Fires Campaign launched by national safe electricals recycling group Material Focus, which aims to raise awareness of how householders can properly recycle batteries and electricals.
Batteries, or electricals containing batteries, that end up inside bins or recycling and waste lorries with other materials, get crushed in the waste or recycling process.

This can result in them being punctured and self-combusting, setting fire to dry and flammable waste and recycling around them.

In June a fire at the Materials Recycling Facility in Great Blakenham, near Ipswich, which recycles waste from across Suffolk, is suspected to have been started by a battery dumped with household recycling.

The fire was located deep within nearly 400 tonnes of waste and took firefighters and staff nearly two hours to extinguish.

Electricals containing batteries that tend to be discarded the most are smaller, frequently used and often cheaper electricals like toothbrushes, shavers, chargers and toys.

Lithium-ion batteries are responsible for around 48 per cent (more than 200) of all waste fires occurring in the UK each year according to the Environmental Services Association, the trade body representing the UK's resource and waste management industry.

These fires cost some £158 million annually to waste operators, fire services and the environment.

Yet the Material Focus survey found 45 per cent of householders are unaware of the fire risk if they do not safely dispose of batteries hidden inside electrical items.

Councillor James Mallinder, the chair of Suffolk Waste Partnership, said: “Batteries can be dangerous if placed within  recycling and waste bins and can cause fires.
“Please - take them to a dedicated recycling point. Both batteries and electrical items can be recycled at any of Suffolk’s 11 Recycling Centres, as well as other local recycling banks. Many supermarkets also accept them.
“We also encourage people to reduce the number of batteries they have by using rechargeable batteries where possible. They are more expensive initially but cheaper in the long run.”

Scott Butler, executive director of Material Focus said: “People should never bin their electricals or their portable batteries. 
“If they can, they should remove any hidden batteries from their electricals and recycle the batteries and electricals separately.
“If they can’t remove the batteries then they should recycle their electricals separately as always. 
“Having listened to the numerous stories of flames engulfing waste and recycling trucks as they drive down residential streets, it’s important we all take action now to keep our streets, householders, waste and local authority staff, and fire fighters safe.”

Mark Andrews, the Chief Fire Officers Association lead for Waste and Recycling Fires, said: “People are often surprised to hear how batteries can cause fires in bin lorries and waste plants, but they do and as we use and dispose of more electronic devices these incidents are not rare. 
"These fires can be challenging for fire services to deal with, have a significant impact on local communities and present a real risk to staff working on lorries and waste plants.
“Everyone can do their bit and prevent fires by ensuring they dispose of electrical items correctly."

Go to Recycling Bring Banks on the Suffolk Recycling website to find your nearest battery recycling point.

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