Battery fires – do you know the risks?

Do you take the time to deliver your used batteries to a recycling point or do you sometimes turn a blind eye and pop them in with your general waste?  Whilst it might be tempted to chuck them in the nearest bin, doing so can be extremely dangerous.

Our resident health and safety expert, Daniela Rizvan takes a closer look at the fire risk associated with disposing of batteries in with general waste.

LITHIUM-ION batteries are said to be responsible for around 48% of all waste fires occurring in the UK each year, costing the economy something in the region of £158 million on an annual basis. That’s according to the latest research conducted by Eunomia Research & Consulting.

People in the UK throw away 22,000 tonnes of batteries a year, according to Environmental Services Association, but only 45% are recycled properly. Batteries discarded with general waste are likely to be crushed or punctured during collection and processing and this can lead to serious issues.

Lithium-ion batteries are believed to have been responsible for at least 250 fires at recycling and waste facilities across the UK in the year to March 2020. These fires represented more than a third of all fires reported, up from a quarter the year before.

At Cawleys, we have experienced two waste fires which we believed were caused by incorrectly disposed of lithium-ion batteries. The risk associated with these batteries is that  they contain a flammable liquid which acts as the electrolyte. If the batteries become damaged during our mechanical recycling operations, this can create a spark and ignite the flammable liquid.

In 2017 Cawleys invested in a state-of-the-art fire suppression system which has been activated on two occasions resulting both fires being brought under control very quickly.

Please remember to dispose of your waste electrical items and batteries responsibly. These should never be put in the general or dry mixed recycling waste bins.

We are often asked at Cawleys about how to recycle batteries properly and we would be pleased to help you explore the options at your place of work. We offer a variety of solutions for safe battery recycling and disposal. Speak to us to discover how your organisation can best dispose of used batteries.

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