28 October 2020

Aberdeenshire Council joins fight against zombie batteries in bid to tackle recycling and waste fires

Consumers across the UK are being urged to join the fight against zombie batteries in a bid to tackle the growing number of fires caused by carelessly discarded dead batteries.

Aberdeenshire Council is today (Wed, Oct 28) supporting the new national ‘Take Charge’ campaign which urges consumers to only recycle dead batteries using specialist battery recycling services and to never throw batteries away alongside general rubbish or other recycling.

For several years, the council has been encouraging North-east residents to pop their redundant batteries into freely-available pink battery recycling bags.

These can then be left out on top of either their recycling or waste bin lid for routine collection or taken to a recycling centre. 

Batteries collected include AA, AAA, Sizes C, Size D, Button, Square, mobile phone batteries and laptop batteries.

Vehicle batteries and leisure batteries from equipment such as caravans are not suitable for the collections and should be taken to a recycling centre.

Customers can collect the battery bags at service points or recycling centres. Additional bags are also available from collection crews – simply tie an empty pink bag to any of your bins and crews will leave you more bags.

Dead batteries thrown away with other waste and recycling, which the campaign refers to as ‘zombie batteries’ are likely to be crushed or punctured once the waste is collected and processed.

Some battery types in particular, like lithium-ion (Li-ion) and nickel-metal Hydride (NiMH), can ignite or even explode when they’re damaged. Once this happens, the batteries can quickly set fire to other materials present in the waste, leading to serious incidents which put lives at risk.

Although safe to use normally, powerful lithium-ion batteries are typically the most dangerous if they are not recycled properly. These batteries are often found in products like laptops, tablets, mobile phones, radio-controlled toys, Bluetooth devices, shavers, electric toothbrushes, power tools, scooters and even e-cigarettes.

The recycling and waste management trade body, the Environmental Services Association (ESA), which launched the campaign, conducts an annual survey of its members to record the proportion of fires occurring at recycling and waste facilities that are known or thought to have been started by lithium-ion batteries in particular.

Recent data collected by the ESA shows that, between April 2019 and March 2020, lithium-ion batteries alone were thought to be responsible for more than 250 fires at its members’ facilities during the year – or well over a third (38%) of all fires.

Aberdeenshire Council Waste Manager Ros Baxter explained: “Most households will use equipment powered by batteries in some form or another, but lithium-ion batteries can become damaged during transit or simply by handling them.

“The potential risk of fire should never be underestimated as when they are in such close proximity to flammable material the results can be catastrophic. I would encourage everyone to use the pink battery recycling bags we provide completely free of charge to ensure they are disposed of safely.

"Recycling batteries will also allow the metals and other valuable materials they contain to be recycled and used again for making other products.”

Executive Director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA), 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 widely available local battery recycling services.”

Consumers can find out more about the dangers of Zombie Batteries, by visiting the campaign website at www.takecharge.org.uk