United Kingdom

'Zombie' batteries cause hundreds of fires a year at recycling plants after owners throw them away

'Zombie' batteries have been found to cause hundreds of fires a year at recycling plants after being thrown away carelessly by owners.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA), a recycling and waste management trade body, has launched a campaign urging people to correctly dispose of dead batteries. 

It warns consumers to never throw batteries away with rubbish or recycling, saying they can explode if damaged and set fire to flammable materials, such as paper.  

Instead, the organisation advises to 'only recycle dead batteries using specialist battery recycling services'.  

CCTV footage captures the dangers posed by dead batteries at various recycling centres, with one clip showing a member of staff jumping back from an explosion. 

A plume of smoke is seen rising from a bin before it is put out by a fire extinguisher in one of the CCTV clips captured at a recycling centre in the UK 

Another clip records a plume of smoke rising from a bin before it is extinguished, while a third shows a raging fire inside a waste container. 

Data analysed by the ESA found around 250 fires at recycling and waste facilities were triggered by lithium-ion batteries between April 2019 and March this year.

The trade body's Executive Director, Jacob Hayler, 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 campaign, called 'Take Charge', is supported by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and local councils across the UK.

Another clip shows a member of staff standing next to a conveyor belt, pictured left, at a recycling centre before jumping back after a sudden explosion (right)

Mark Andrews, NFCC Waste Fires Lead and Assistant Chief Fire Officer of East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, added: 'Batteries in household waste and recycling can lead to large scale and protracted fires. 

'These incidents are often very challenging for fire services to deal with and can cause significant disruption to communities. 

'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.' 

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