Renewi, working in partnership with Wakefield Council, supports national campaign to tackle “zombie battery” fires

Renewi, working in partnership with Wakefield Council, is participating in the national Take Charge campaign, which launched on Monday 24th October. The campaign aims to tackle the serious problem of recycling and waste fires caused by carelessly discarded “zombie batteries”.

The campaign urges consumers across the UK to Recycle Batteries Responsibly by using specialist battery and electrical device recycling services, which will help reduce the growing number of serious fires started by carelessly discarded batteries.

When they are thrown away with the general rubbish, or mixed with other recycling, hidden “zombie batteries” can easily return from the dead and cause serious fires once collected – particularly higher-powered lithium-ion batteries which are now common across a wide range of household devices from phones and laptops, to power tools, children’s toys, ebikes and scooters, and even vape devices.

Dead batteries thrown away with other waste and recycling are likely to be crushed or punctured once the waste is collected and processed. Some battery types can ignite or even explode when they’re damaged in waste collection and treatment processes. Once this happens, the batteries can set fire to other materials present in the waste, like paper and card, leading to serious incidents that, in some cases, put lives at risk and disrupt vital waste services.

From the start of April to the end of September this year there were 69 battery fires in the mixed recycling facility at the South Kirkby Waste Treatment Facility where all Wakefield’s household rubbish is processed. The fire service attended site four times in this period to deal with larger fires caused by batteries.

An independent report published in 2021 found that nearly 50% of all recycling and waste fires in the UK (hundreds each year) are started by lithium-ion batteries alone and that the total annual cost of these fires exceeds £150 million.

Although safe to use normally, lithium-ion batteries are particularly prone to causing fires or explosions if they are not recycled properly. These batteries are most commonly found in products like laptops, tablets, mobile phones, radio-controlled toys, Bluetooth devices, shavers, electric toothbrushes, power tools, scooters and even e-cigarettes.

Wakefield residents can dispose of their small electrical items and lithium ion batteries at any of the three HWRCs across the district, as well as the following five bring sites

  • Asda Castleford
  • Co-op Wakefield
  • Morrisons Pontefract
  • Morrisons Wakefield
  • Tesco Hemsworth

Jacob Hayler, Executive Director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA), which created the campaign, said: “Serious fires caused by zombie batteries can cause millions of pounds of damage and place vital local recycling and waste services under significant pressure. This is not just a local problem, but a growing issue we’re seeing across the UK. We urge everyone to help us reduce the growing number of battery fires by recycling all batteries and waste electrical devices responsibly using free local services. Less than half of all the batteries sold in the UK are currently recycled, so there is a lot of room for improvement and the more batteries that are recycled properly, the fewer will end up where they shouldn’t be.”

Stephanie Housty, Marketing & Sustainability Manager at Ecosurety said: “Most citizens want to do their bit and recycle, but often need guidance to do it properly, especially for batteries and small WEEE with embedded batteries. Following on our long-standing commitment to increase recycling, it was important for Ecosurety to get behind this campaign and drive up the public awareness of the growing Lithium batteries fires issue to nudge consumers to dispose of batteries and small electrical devices safely.”

Consumers can find out where to recycle batteries responsibly in their area, and more about the dangers of Zombie Batteries, by visiting the campaign website at www.takecharge.org.uk