Battery explosion prompts recycling warning

Residents are being warned about the safe disposal of batteries following an explosion and fire in the back of a council recycling collection vehicle.

Battery explosion prompts recycling warning
The recycling load had to be dumped to allow the fire to be put out.
East Northamptonshire Council says it is ‘pleading’ with residents to take more care with batteries after the incident last week.

The council says that the explosion in the market town of Raunds during a collection round on Tuesday (14 March) rocked the vehicle and could be heard at the far end of the street.

The Kier crew carrying out the council collection parked the vehicle on a grass verge away from houses and cars, and when the fire service arrived the entire six-tonne load of recycling had to be dumped on the road to allow firefighters to dowse the fire thoroughly.

The fire crews identified the cause of the fire as a nickel-cadmium battery, a type of rechargeable battery used in household items like remote control toys and torches. The council has warned that such batteries should not be placed in waste or recycling bins as they contain chemicals that can ignite and should be disposed of at battery recycling points.

Battery recycling points are commonly found in supermarkets, as well as at council household waste recycling centres and DIY stores.

Recycling batteries that contain toxic heavy metals like nickel, cadmium or mercury through specific collections also helps the environment, as these metals may leak into the ground when the battery’s casing corrodes at a landfill or waste storage site, which can cause soil and water pollution. If they are incinerated, meanwhile, the metals in batteries can also cause increased levels of air pollution.

Incorrect disposal could have ‘dangerous implications’ for public and environment

Leader of East Northamptonshire Council Steven North said: “While these items may seem harmless, they could have dangerous implications for our waste collection crews, the public and the environment.

“We’re asking all residents to please keep everyone safe by not putting hazardous waste into household bins but making use of the battery recycling points in shops and household recycling centres.

“We also ask residents to consider the financial cost implications of incorrect disposal. Because of this situation, six tonnes of recycling had to go to landfill as it was contaminated, as well as the cost of the fire crews, the waste crews who supported the situation and kept collection rounds running, the damage to the truck and the clear-up costs. Please dispose of these items in the proper way.”

Stuart Smith, Operations Supervisor for Kier, praised the crew for acting quickly in dumping the load in a safe place before the fire could disable the truck’s hydraulics, which likely saved the truck from being consumed by the fire: “Our crew did exactly what they needed to do to prevent the fire spreading and creating damage to people or property. We would appreciate all residents being vigilant in ensuring hazardous materials are not put in their bins but disposed of as indicated on the ENC website.”

The vehicle involved was soon back out on rounds and the road was reopened to the public by 5pm.

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