26 Oct ‘Zombie batteries’ causing hundreds of fires, campaigners say | UK News
“Zombie batteries” have caused hundreds of fires at waste management facilities and recycling plants, endangering workers’ health, according to campaigners.
The batteries are found in common products such as laptops, tablets, mobile phones, radio-controlled toys, Bluetooth devices, shavers, electric toothbrushes, power tools, scooters and even e-cigarettes.
If they are not recycled properly and end up in household waste, dead batteries can still cause dangerous incidents, hence the nickname “zombie”.
Once collected, they are likely to be crushed or punctured, and some battery types in particular, like lithium-ion (Li-ion) and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), can ignite or even explode when they are damaged.
That can cause other materials, like paper, to ignite, leading to serious incidents that can put lives at risk, said industry trade body the Environmental Services Association (ESA).
In its annual survey, the ESA found fires at its members’ sites that are known or thought to have been started by lithium-ion batteries in particular rose to more than a third (38%) of all fires – or around 250 blazes in the year to March 2020.
It could be more, however, as in many cases the precise cause of a fire is never established.
Jacob Hayler, ESA executive director, said: “Unfortunately, the majority of batteries thrown away in the UK at the moment are not recycled properly.
“Fires caused by carelessly discarded batteries endanger lives, cause millions of pounds of damage and disrupt waste services.
“We urge consumers to please recycle batteries responsibly by using battery recycling points in shops and recycling centres, or a separate battery kerbside collection if available.”
The ESA has launched a campaign called Take Charge, which aims to persuade the public to recycle batteries responsibly.
Mark Andrews, assistant chief fire officer of East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Batteries in household waste and recycling can lead to large scale and protracted fires.”
The incidents, he said, are often “very challenging for fire services to deal with”.
“Many people may not realise the importance of the correct disposal of batteries so this simple advice can make a real difference in preventing waste fires,” he added.