Fire Risk – Battery Disposal

Nearly 50% of all waste fires in the UK are caused by lithium-ion batteries disposed of incorrectly costing £158 million annually to waste operators according to the Environmental Services Association. Research by Material Focus identified over 600 fires in waste vehicles and sites across the UK caused by batteries contained within waste electrical items. Findings from the research indicate that fires caused by batteries in the waste stream are three times higher than previously thought. Of 58 local authorities surveyed some 90% reported that fires caused by batteries are an increasing problem. This issue looks only set to grow due to the rapid adoption of lithium-ion battery-powered devices.

Removal of batteries from waste electrical items prior to disposal is an important first step. Convenient and clearly marked disposal points are key to encouraging the safe disposal of batteries. For many households, the nearest disposal points will be a supermarket or household waste recycling centre which may be located some miles away. While these types of disposal point have a relatively decent adoption rate of almost 50% amongst households, worryingly around 25% of adults regularly dispose of batteries into general waste bins without a second thought. This rises to 32% for those under 55 and 37% for those under 35. Disposing of faulty or damaged lithium-ion batteries in this manner poses a real fire risk and will contribute to the growth of battery initiated waste fires outlined above.

Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment disposal points will accept a range household devices with a plug or battery and a common misconception can arise that batteries don’t need to be removed from WEEE items. Of course the opposite is true and all batteries should be removed prior to disposal with batteries placed in separate and appropriately labelled containers to help reduce fire risk as electronic items enter the waste stream. 

To help address a clear need for more convenient battery disposal points metroSTOR have designed a separate battery deposit box that can be fitted to any metroSTOR bin housing. Recently demoed at RWM & Letsrecycle Live 2022, the new battery deposit boxes garnered a lot of interest due to ease of integration, clear signage options and the potential to efficiently introduce safe and effective battery disposal points into communal waste and recycling settings.