SUEZ recycling and recovery UK supports national campaign to tackle "zombie battery" fires
SUEZ recycling and recovery UK is participating in the national Take Charge campaign, which launched on Monday 24 October 2022. The campaign aims to tackle the serious problem of recycling and waste fires caused by carelessly discarded “zombie batteries”.
The campaign urges consumers across the UK to Recycle Batteries Responsibly by using specialist battery and electrical device recycling services, which will help reduce the growing number of serious fires started by carelessly discarded batteries.
When they are thrown away with the general rubbish, or mixed with other recycling, hidden “zombie batteries” can easily return from the dead and cause serious fires once collected – particularly higher-powered lithium-ion batteries which are now common across a wide range of household devices from phones and laptops, to power tools, children’s toys, ebikes and scooters, and even vape devices.
Dead batteries thrown away with other waste and recycling are likely to be crushed or punctured once the waste is collected and processed. Some battery types can ignite or even explode when they’re damaged in waste collection and treatment processes. Once this happens, the batteries can set fire to other materials present in the waste, like paper and card, leading to serious incidents that, in some cases, put lives at risk and disrupt vital waste services.
Whilst it’s impossible to prove conclusively, we believe it is highly probable that the recent devastating fire at our Altens recycling centre in Aberdeen was caused by a battery or battery-operated device that a resident had by accident put into their recycling bin. Please click on the link to see the shocking CCTV footage of just how quickly the fire took a hold: here
An independent report published in 2021 found that nearly 50% of all recycling and waste fires in the UK (hundreds each year) are started by lithium-ion batteries alone and that the total annual cost of these fires exceeds £150 million.
Although safe to use normally, lithium-ion batteries are particularly prone to causing fires or explosions if they are not recycled properly. These batteries are most commonly found in products like laptops, tablets, mobile phones, radio-controlled toys, Bluetooth devices, shavers, electric toothbrushes, power tools, scooters and even e-cigarettes.
Aberdeen City Council Co-Leader Councillor Ian Yuill said: “The fire at the Altens East Recycling Centre had a devastating effect on the site. We are supporting the Take Charge campaign to encourage everyone to properly dispose of batteries and electronics by taking them to their nearest Household Waste and Recycling Centre or electronics recycling location. The campaign highlights the dangers, which we’ve experienced first-hand, of putting these items in the bin and we encourage all our citizens to check our website for advice on where they should take them.”
Colin Forshaw, Production Operations Manager, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, said “We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service for their quick response on the day of the fire at our Altens recycling centre. To see such an important facility that provided an essential service for Aberdeen residents be destroyed by something as avoidable as a battery being put in a bin is devastating. We would ask all residents to please take note of the Take Charge campaign advice and never bin batteries but instead dispose of them responsibly and if in doubt of where to take them, please check on your local authority website.”
A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: “We are working hard with key stakeholders and partners to understand the risks that lithium-ion batteries (LIB) present to communities across Scotland. A bespoke working group is focused on these risks and their findings will bolster our community safety messaging. We would urge users of LIB technology to take the appropriate steps when disposing of spent battery units to ensure reduced risk of fire.”
Jacob Hayler, Executive Director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA), which created the campaign, said: “Serious fires caused by zombie batteries can cause millions of pounds of damage and place vital local recycling and waste services under significant pressure. This is not just a local problem, but a growing issue we’re seeing across the UK. We urge everyone to help us reduce the growing number of battery fires by recycling all batteries and waste electrical devices responsibly using free local services. Less than half of all the batteries sold in the UK are currently recycled, so there is a lot of room for improvement and the more batteries that are recycled properly, the fewer will end up where they shouldn’t be.”
Consumers can find out where to recycle batteries responsibly in their area, and more about the dangers of Zombie Batteries, by visiting the campaign website at www.takecharge.org.uk