Warning over battery disposal after Oxfordshire recycling fire

Residents are being warned about the dangers of unsafe battery disposal after a fire at a recycling centre.

The incident was caused by a damaged battery at the Witney depot in Oxfordshire, it was likely to have been crushed in a recycling vehicle.

Emergency services attend more than 700 waste-related fires in the UK each year caused by batteries, according to research by Materials Focus.

West Oxfordshire District Council said lives could be put at risk.

Speaking about the incident, that happened in July, Cllr Lidia Arciszewska, executive member for environment at the council said: “We’re reminding householders of the importance of disposing of their batteries safely.

“With so much flammable paper and cardboard in the bay the situation could have escalated very quickly with devastating consequences.”

Nearly half of all recycling and waste fires in the UK are started by lithium-ion batteries, which costs the UK over £150m a year.

Lithium-ion batteries can be found in a range of electrical items, including mobile phones, cameras, toothbrushes, laptops and e-cigarettes.

“There’s a very real risk of the battery being punctured by compacting equipment, with the potential to ignite or explode in the back of the lorry, causing damage, disrupting waste collections and ultimately putting lives at risk,” Cllr Arciszewska added.

‘Disposed of safely’

Batteries and small appliances can still be recycled in West Oxfordshire, but they need to be separated from the main recycling.

Scott Butler from the national Recycle Your Electricals campaign said: “The issue is we have more and more portable devices, almost everything we carry around with us has lithium-ion batteries.

“But if those gadgets or technology go into the wrong place, like a kitchen bin, then it will be taken away and crushed causing more damage.

“These fires aren’t like normal fires they need special chemicals to help put them out.”

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