The Environmental Services Association (ESA) and its members, and Ecosurety, have re-launched the Take Charge campaign urging UK consumers to recycle batteries responsibly.
Launched on 24 October 2022 and running until 7 November 2022, the campaign follows in response to increasing fires at UK recycling and waste management facilities and aims to reduce the growing number of serious fires started by carelessly discarded batteries.
An increasing problem
An independent report published by Eunomia in 2021 concluded that nearly 50% of all recycling and waste fires in the UK are started by lithium-ion batteries alone and that the total cost of these fires to the country exceeds £150 million each year.
The research estimated that just over 200 fires at UK recycling and waste management facilities were caused by batteries each year, but the ESA now considers this likely to be an under-estimate with local authorities and recycling and waste management companies across the UK reporting in 2022 that battery fires are an increasing problem.
Taking charge of battery recycling
Through the halloween-themed campaign, consumers are being urged to take charge of responsible battery recycling.
The campaign provides a wide range of visual content and encourages all stakeholders in the recycling and waste industry to share the campaign content across their social media channels.
The campaign messaging urges consumers to only recycle batteries, and electronic devices containing batteries, using specialist recycling services, and reminds the public to never throw batteries away alongside general rubbish or other recycling by drawing attention to the fire risk
A range of non-halloween content will be made available for use in perpetuity after the end of the campaign.
Consumer awareness is crucial
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.”
The fight against ‘zombie batteries’
Dead batteries thrown away with other waste and recycling, which the campaign calls “zombie batteries”, are likely to be crushed or punctured once the waste is collected and processed, particularly higher-powered lithium-ion batteries which are now common across a wide range of household devices from phones and laptops, to power tools, childrens’ toys, ebikes and scooters, and even vape devices. Although safe to use normally, lithium-ion batteries are most prone to cause fires or explosions if they are not recycled properly.
Some battery types can ignite or even explode when they are damaged in waste collection and treatment processes. Once this happens, the batteries can set fire to other materials present in the waste, like paper, leading to serious incidents in some cases that can put lives at risk.
A serious threat
Executive Director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA), Jacob Hayler said: “Since we first launched ‘Take Charge’ in 2020, the number of battery- fires at recycling and waste facilities unfortunately seems to have risen considerably and is affecting all operators in the sector - not helped by the tinder-dry conditions caused by the heatwave this summer.
“These fires not only put lives at risk, but also seriously threaten vital infrastructure upon which all of us across the UK rely on every day. We urge everyone to please recycle batteries and electronic devices responsibly and help us stop waste batteries from becoming zombies.”
Visit the Take Charge website to find out more about where to recycle batteries responsibly, and more about the dangers of Zombie Batteries.