Warning over batteries starting fires at waste recycling centres

New rules for binning vapes and e-cigarettes could be introduced after families were warned of the ‘increasing risk’ of batteries sparking waste fires across Tyne and Wear.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 4:29 pm
Battery [stock image] Source: PIXABAY

At least one blaze, at Middlefields Waste Transfer Station, in South Shields has been directly linked to an exploding mobile phone battery.

And with bosses expecting the issue to become worse in the coming years, official guidance is being updated to ensure products can be disposed of safely.

“[Producers have told me] the use of lithium batteries is on the increase,” said Fiona Swinburne, contract manager for the South Tyne and Wear Waste Management Partnership.

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“There is also an increase in the sorts of small domestic appliances that have the batteries in them – vapes and stuff like that that are new to the market.

“What happens is these have been released recently, but they’re all coming to the end of their life and fires are becoming an increasing risk to us.”

Swinburne was speaking at last week’s (Friday, April 30) meeting of the partnership’s Joint Executive Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

The blaze at Middlefields broke out on March 9, when a mobile phone battery ‘exploded and caused the surrounding waste materials to ignite’.

A report for the panel revealed it had ‘fortunately’ happened in the afternoon, when the site was operational, staff noticed flames quickly and were able to alert emergency services and clear the site.

Less than two weeks earlier, however, on February 28, Campground Waste Transfer Station, in Gateshead, was shut for almost a month following a fire.

While ‘the exact cause of the fire may never be known’, bosses have suggested the blaze started in general waste which had been delivered from nearby tips.

They also issued guidance to the public on how to safely dispose of batteries and other electrical appliances, including:

Removing batteries from electrical items before disposing of them Advising batteries should be disposed of in separate battery boxes Advising vapes and other e-cigarette products should be disposed of in separate containers

A recycling wagon crew in Gateshead was also forced to tackle a fire in their vehicle earlier this year (March 17) after loading a batch of cardboard, although, once again, ‘the actual cause of the fire could not be subsequently identified’.

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