'Stop Battery Fires' campaign launched

Recycle Your Electricals and the National Fire Chiefs Council have joined forces to launch the "Stop Battery Fires" campaign, aiming to address the growing problem of lithium-ion battery waste fires in the UK.

Firefighters dealing with fire caused by a battery at a waste depot

The campaign comes as new research reveals that over 1,200 fires in bin lorries and waste sites across the country were caused by improperly disposed of batteries in the last year, a 71 per cent increase from the 700 incidents reported in 2022. A survey of local authorities across the UK has also found that 94 per cent of them said that fires caused by batteries in the waste stream were an increasing challenge.

Phil Clark from the National Fire Chiefs Council said: "Fires involving the incorrect disposal of lithium-ion batteries are a disaster waiting to happen. Fire services are seeing an increasing number of incidents, but they are preventable by correctly and carefully disposing of electricals."

The "Stop Battery Fires" campaign aims to educate the public about the importance of recycling electricals and batteries to prevent these fires. Recycle Your Electricals is working to make the recycling process more accessible by providing a Postcode Locator tool that helps individuals find their nearest electrical and battery recycling points.

Local authorities and waste professionals can use the campaign's resources to raise awareness within their communities and encourage proper disposal of electrical waste and batteries.

New research from Recycle Your Electricals, conducted by Opinium, shows that over 1.1 billion electricals and 449.9 million loose batteries were binned in the last year. UK adults admitted that on average they'd binned at least 24 batteries, including fifteen electricals containing batteries and 9 loose batteries. This included 260 million vapes. Nearly half of UK adults did not know or hadn't heard that electrical items containing chargeable built-in batteries can catch fire if crushed or damaged.

Mark Andrews, Waste and Recycling Fires Lead for the National Fire Chiefs Council, explains: "Fires involving waste have always been challenging but lithium-ion batteries add significantly to this by creating unknown and unpredictable risks. These fires can be explosive and spread rapidly with the risk of re ignition and toxic gases a risk to firefighters. These incidents also tie up large numbers of finite fire service resources and firefighters to fully control and extinguish the fire creating further risks to the community."

As the use of lithium-ion batteries continues to grow, it is essential for the waste management sector to adapt and develop strategies to mitigate the risks associated with their disposal. The "Stop Battery Fires" campaign serves as a valuable resource for professionals in the industry, providing guidance and support in the effort to create a safer and more sustainable waste management system.

Scott Butler, Executive Director of Recycle Your Electricals, said: "With more and more products containing lithium-ion batteries, and battery fires on the rise, it's vital that we stop these fires and reduce the air pollution impact that they have on our local communities and the dangers they present to fire fighters and waste officers. We are also throwing away some of the most precious materials on the planet which are vital to our economy. We are calling on everyone to make sure that they never bin and always recycle their electricals and their batteries. Just search ‘Recycle Your Electricals’ to find [the] nearest drop off point."

Professor Frank Kelly from the Faculty of Medicine, School of Public Health at Imperial College London has found that: "Waste fires can cause significant spikes in air pollution. Our analysis of fires at waste sites in the very densely populated areas of Herne Hill and Brentford showed that they contributed to the local pollution burden with the fire in Herne Hill, clearly leading to exceedances in the WHO health based guideline for PM2.5. This meant that thousands of residents in the area were affected, and rightly advised to close windows. Some were unable to leave their homes."

James Nicholson, Chief Claims Officer at Zurich UK, states: "Lithium battery related fires have become a real concern over recent years, as each year we're seeing more and more, whether that's in bin lorries or waste centres. Not only can they cause a considerable amount of damage - Zurich UK has seen some cases cost in the region of up to £20 million - but they can also cause a lot of upheaval while damage is repaired."

Related Articles