ESA Launches Campaign to Address the Growing Problem of Waste Fires caused by Dead Batteries

​On the 26th October 2020, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) announced its new national campaign Take Charge. The campaign will focus on urging consumers to recycle batteries by using specialist battery recycling services and will warn consumers of the dangers associated with disposing of batteries in the general waste or other recycling.

The Problem

Dead batteries which are wrongly disposed of in general waste or other recycling have a high chance of being damaged when they are collected and processed. Of particular concern are batteries such as lithium-ion (Li-ion) and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), which if damaged can ignite or explode. The initial spark or explosion can lead to large waste fires if the fire spreads to other flammable waste materials such as paper, which can create a very dangerous situation.

The dangers particularly associated with lithium-ion batteries which are not recycled properly are well documented, with many believing this type of battery is the main cause of waste fires. Li-ion batteries are used in many different electronic products and are one of the most common types of rechargeable battery.

An annual survey conducted by ESA of its members revealed for the period between April 2019 to March 2020, fires caused by lithium-ion batteries increased by 38% year on year, which equates to about 250 fires. The ESA does acknowledge however the actual figure may well be higher than this as the exact cause of a fire is difficult to establish in many cases.

Consumers can visit the Take Charge website to find out where they should recycle batteries in their area and more about the dangers of wrongly disposing of dead batteries.

Key Points About Recycling Batteries

  • The ESA announcement urges consumers to recycle batteries using battery recycling collection points. You can usually find these in supermarkets, local household waste recycling centres (HWRCS), DIY stores, and high-street shops.
  • About 40% of local councils operate kerbside collections of used batteries so it is worth considering if this is an option in your local area.
  • Used batteries should be taken out of waste electricals before they are disposed of, with the waste electrical item either being recycled at a local HWRC or kerbside collection (if this is an option). If removal of the batteries is not possible then they should remain in the waste electrical and the waste electrical should be recycled by a waste electricals recycling service.
  • All batteries can be recycled but at present, around 55% are not recycled correctly.

Click here to read the full ESA press release announcing the Take Charge campaign