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Buckinghamshire recycling centres join the fight against zombie batteries

Household recycling centres across Buckinghamshire are taking part in the national Take Charge campaign which urges consumers to join the fight against ‘zombie’ batteries by only recycling dead batteries using specialist battery recycling services and keeping them out of the general rubbish or recycling.

Because zombie batteries, like the zombies in horror films, have the power to rise from the grave… and to cause destruction in waste management and recycling facilities. That’s why they need to be recycled properly.

Although all batteries should be recycled properly, powerful lithium-ion batteries are the most dangerous type if they are thrown into the general rubbish or ordinary recycling. 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. Although they’re safe to use normally, once dead, these zombie batteries have the power to cause fires or even explode if crushed or damaged during the waste treatment process.

The team at FCC Environment who manage the nine recycling centres on behalf of Buckinghamshire Council have recently had to deal with two such incidents:

  • A fire in the electrical bin at Beaconsfield Recycling Centre
  • A fire in the paper bin at Aylesbury Recycling Centre

It is thought that the cause of both fires was incorrect battery disposal. Thankfully, due to the prompt action taken by staff on each occasion, no one was hurt and little damage was done. Members of the public were evacuated and both recycling centres had to close while the Fire Brigade attended to extinguish the flames.

The Council’s kerbside collection crews have also dealt with similar incidents recently with fires in the back of the collection vehicles, and the waste transfer station at High Heavens in Wycombe ─ where rubbish is collected for onward transfer to the Greatmoor Energy from Waste plant ─ suffered a severe battery-related blaze that caused considerable damage.

To remind household recycling centre visitors of this danger, Take Charge campaign banners and posters are now on display at all nine centres to highlight the importance of removing batteries from these items before recycling them. Additional battery recycling bins have been installed near to the electrical items bins to make it even easier to recycle your batteries correctly.

Peter Strachan, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and the Environment, commented:

“By joining the fight against zombie batteries, we hope to not only encourage visitors to do the right thing with their batteries, but also to help protect our fantastic team by preventing a fire occurring again in the future.

“Batteries are very easy to recycle, but have to be collected separately. Residents can do this at all nine household recycling centres, all major supermarkets and even via the kerbside collection ─ by putting them in a small clear bag on top of the lid of your recycling bin on collection day. You just need to make sure they don’t end up in the bin or recycling with other waste.”

Recent data shows that, between April 2019 and March 2020, lithium-ion batteries alone were thought to be responsible for more than 250 fires at waste facilities – or well over a third (38%) of all such fires.