Warning over battery disposal after Oxfordshire recycling fire

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

Smoke was spotted in a bay at the Witney depot in West Oxfordshire, which was coming from a damaged battery which was believed to have been crushed in the back of a recycling vehicle.

Emergency services respond to more than 700 waste-related fires each year due to unsafe disposal.

West Oxfordshire District Council said lives could be at risk.

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

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

Almost half of all recycling and waste fires in the UK are started by lithium-ion batteries, costing the UK more than £150 million a year.

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

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

‘Deleted safely’

Batteries and small appliances can still be recycled in West Oxford, but they must be separated from the main recycling.

Scott Butler of the national campaign Recycle Your Electricals said: “The problem is we have more and more mobile devices, almost everything we carry with us has lithium ion batteries.

“But if that device or technology goes in the wrong place, like a kitchen bin, then it will be taken away and crushed causing more damage.

“These fires are not like normal fires, they need special chemicals to help put them out.”

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