29th October 2020

SUEZ Surrey joins national fight against “zombie batteries” in bid to tackle recycling and waste fires

SUEZ Surrey supports the new national Take Charge campaign, which urges consumers to “join the fight against zombie batteries” and help tackle the growing number of fires caused by carelessly discarded dead batteries, which should never be thrown away alongside general rubbish or other recycling.

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, like paper, leading to serious incidents that put lives at risk and can severely damage critical infrastructure to the point of site closure.

To help prevent waste fires, Surrey residents should visit and use the recycling search tool to find the nearest community recycling centre accepting batteries and small electricals.

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. Residents can help reduce fire risk by removing batteries from these items and recycling them separately in dedicated collection points.

Recent data collected by the Environmental Services Association 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.

In SUEZ sites in the UK alone there have been 23 confirmed fire incidents linked to batteries in 2020 – roughly one every fortnight – with three of these taking place in Surrey. Each of these incidents had the potential to close the recycling centre or transfer station for weeks at a time or even permanently.

Members of the ESA, including SUEZ, hope that by encouraging the public to recycle batteries responsibly, it will reduce the number of “zombie batteries” present in general waste and recycling, thereby reducing the number of fires in future.

Consumers can find out more about the dangers of Zombie Batteries, by visiting the campaign website at Take Charge is supported by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC).

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