To the local householder a recycling centre is not something you think about on a daily basis, but you never think of leaving your home these days without your mobile phone, laptop or I pad.
These devices are what makes life easier in communicating around the world either for business or pleasure and we will never go backwards, however due to them being mobile devices this means they contain a battery that needs charging but not just the ordinary A4 batteries that have been around for centuries, these are Lithium – Ion batteries and need to be disposed of with particular care, if not they will set on fire!!
Here is just one example of that:
Li-ion batteries were implicated in a plane crash in Dubai in 2010 and consignments of these batteries are now banned from UK and US aircraft, although individual passengers are still allowed to take their laptops on board. Passengers may take spare batteries in their carry-on luggage if precautions are taken to prevent short circuits.
Recently you will have also heard of the many fires that are plaguing re-cycling centres on the news and this is due to ‘believe it or not’ Lithium metal actually heats up when it is exposed to water and yes in the UK we get a lot of this.
You may not be aware but there are many re-cycling centres based very near to residential areas therefore causing havoc to the community when this happens. This story hit the headlines in February of this year:
This week we saw a fire engulf a recycling centre. This time the site of the fire was at the Parr Industrial Estate on Merseyside. The blaze at the Viridor site in St Helens is thought to have broken out at around 5.40 am on a Saturday morning and is thought to have ‘most likely’ been caused by Lithium-Ion batteries. Another Viridor site in Dunbar suffered a fire back in January, also attributed to Lithium Ion batteries.
This was a large fire with a 30m tower of black smoke being seen for miles around, and firefighting crews continuing to battle the fire for 17 hours! The area of waste affected was around 50 x 50 metres.
The Environmental Services Association (ESA), the trade body representing the UK’s resource and waste management industry, reports that of the 510 fires reported by ESA members across the UK in 2017-18, a quarter (25%) were attributed to li-ion batteries, up from 20% in the previous year.
So what can we do?
A potential solution to the problem which has been suggested (As these kinds of batteries continue to be used in an ever increasing number of products) is to place an electronic tag on batteries so that waste firms can detect them if they enter the conventional waste stream. The ESA has been lobbying battery manufacturers to introduce such technology, but so far, with no success.
So for now, if you the householder, before bagging any rubbish or contacting a company like ourselves just double check if any of the items contain these batteries, remove them and put them in one pile. These can now be disposed of properly within the hazardous waste category instead of just being thrown on the general pile.
This will help to reduce the risk of fire and anything which reduces risk is always a positive never a negative (Excuse the pun.)