Updated Oct 27, 2020

Environmental body calls for action to tackle discarded battery fires at waste sites

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) is campaigning to address the issue of fires at waste facilities across the country due to inappropriately discarded batteries.

So-called "zombie batteries" are the sole cause of hundreds of fires at recycling centres and landfills, where they are crushed or punctured during the collection and processing, which can cause fires if the content of the battery leaks out and mixes with other flammable waste, or the battery has contact with other metals, causing a discharge of electricity and igniting the waste around it.

The research carried out by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) found that lithium-ion batteries, typically found in mobile phones, laptops, electric toothbrushes, power tools and e-cigarettes, were responsible for at least 250 fires at recycling waste facilities across the UK last year.

According to ESA, UK residents discard around 22,000 tonnes of batteries each year, but only 45% of them are appropriately recycled. Batteries should only be recycled at the designated battery collection points, which can be found in many shops and supermarkets, DIY stores, and at local Household Waste Recycling Centres.

Here are ESA's five tips to stop dead batteries becoming zombies:

  • use rechargeable batteries instead of single-use ones where possible;
  • sell or donate working, but unwanted, battery-powered electronic devices instead of throwing them away;
  • never put batteries in your general rubbish bin or recycle them with other recyclable materials;
  • if a battery can be removed from a product, the battery should always be recycled separately using a battery recycling point or collection service;
  • if a battery cannot be removed from an electronic product that no longer works, the product and the battery should be recycled together using a waste electricals recycling centre.

For more information on this subject, see: