Take charge of battery disposal | Your questions answered

Almost half of all waste fires in the UK are caused by batteries. This not only poses a significant risk to those who work at the facilities but also costs millions in damage every year. What’s more, batteries which end up in landfill can release toxic substances which contaminate soil and water, further harming our environment.

It’s vital that consumers recycle batteries responsibly, which is why we are fully supporting the Environmental Services Association – led Take Charge campaign, which raises awareness of the fire risk associated with improper disposal. This issue also extends to businesses. In fact, all UK businesses have a duty of care to ensure the hazardous waste they generate, such as batteries are disposed of responsibly.

Here, we answer some of your key questions.

Can I throw away used batteries or electrical items containing batteries in to my recycling or general waste bin?

No, you must never throw used batteries or items containing batteries (i.e. electric toothbrushes, e-cigarettes, old mobile phones etc.) in general waste or your recycling bin, as batteries are likely to be damaged during collection creating potential for fire and putting lives at risk.

How can I dispose of batteries in a safe manner?

You can recycle used batteries responsibly in one of many free to access and convenient battery recycling points. They are placed in local household waste recycling centres (HWRC) or local supermarkets. You can also organise a hazardous waste collection for your business and use a designated container to collect batteries and other hazardous wastes like bulbs, aerosols and paints, and have them collected by approved waste management contractors. You can find further guidance on how to dispose different types of batteries and other hazardous here.

Why are batteries likely to be damaged during disposal and collection?

When batteries are placed in your general waste bin, they are likely to be crushed, punctured, shredded and exposed to liquids. When batteries become damaged, even to a small extent), not only can their hazardous contents leak out and cause environmental harm, but some batteries can become very hot and set fire to other waste material around them, causing large fires and putting recycling and waste workers at risk.

Why can’t I recycle my batteries in mixed recycling bin?

When your mixed recycling is collected, it goes through various hand and mechanical sorting processes to make it ready to be turned into new things. These processes are not designed to accept batteries, so batteries can end up contaminating your recycling or can be easily damaged during sorting – leading to serious fires.

Can all types of batteries cause fire?

All types of batteries can pose a risk of fire when damaged, but some can be particularly dangerous if they’re not recycled responsibly.

Certain rechargeable battery types most often found in portable electronic devices like laptops, tablets, mobile phones, cameras, power-tools, remote-controlled toys and even e-cigarettes, are particularly prone to causing fires because they can release lots of energy quickly, and in an uncontrolled way, if they are damaged or exposed to liquids.

The use of lithium-ion batteries is rapidly increasing across a wide range of products. Although safe to use normally, if damaged, these batteries can be particularly dangerous, so please recycle them responsibly.

How does responsible battery recycling work?

When batteries are recycled responsibly, they are collected together, only alongside other batteries, in safe containers. They are then collected securely and taken to facilities which specialise in safe battery sorting and recycling.

What shall I do with batteries are concealed in the product?

If you can remove the battery from the product, please do so. Batteries and waste electrical items should be recycled separately.

However, some electronic devices contain rechargeable batteries which cannot be easily removed from the product. If you no longer want one of these products, you should not attempt to remove the battery yourself. Instead, if the product is in working order, please consider selling or donating it so that it can be used for as long as possible. If the product is broken, some online companies may still actually pay you for it, so it’s worth checking online first before recycling it.

If the product is broken and you wish to recycle it, please recycle it with the battery inside alongside other small waste electrical items (WEEE) at your local household waste recycling centre (HWRC) or as part of your business hazardous waste collections.

Recycling your batteries responsibly, whether they are from a household or business, will help to protect those who work in the waste industry as well as the environment from the adverse effects of improper disposal.