Startling findings from recent research by Material Focus have brought to light a 71% surge in battery fires since 2022, posing a significant threat to public safety and the environment. The UK has witnessed an alarming increase in battery-related fires, with over 1,200 incidents reported in the past year, a sharp rise from 700 in the previous year. This rapid escalation underscores the pressing need for heightened awareness and more robust recycling practices for batteries and electrical devices.

The widespread use of lithium-ion batteries in our daily lives has significantly contributed to this problem. These batteries, found in a range of items from laptops and mobile phones to electric toothbrushes and vapes, pose a severe fire risk when not disposed of properly. It’s crucial for each one of us to understand that when these batteries are thrown away with general rubbish, they can get crushed or damaged in bin lorries or waste sites, potentially leading to dangerous fires.

Last year, it was revealed that within every minute, 3,000 batteries were thrown away, totalling 1.6bn. 1.1bn of them were electrical goods with hidden lithium-ion batteries.

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has warned that fires involving lithium-ion batteries are “a disaster waiting to happen.” These incidents are not only hazardous but also costly.

Zurich UK reports that insurance claims for battery fires can raise incredible costs, highlighting the significant financial impact. James Nicholson, Chief Claims Officer at Zurich UK, states:

“Lithium battery related fires have become a real concern over recent years, as each year, we’re seeing more and more, whether that’s in bin lorries or waste centres. Not only can they cause a considerable amount of damage – Zurich UK has seen some cases cost in the region of up to £20 million – but they can also cause a lot of upheaval while damage is repaired.”

Increasing Strain on Fire Services

West Sussex Battery Fire 1. Credit_ West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service

Credit: West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service

The strain on fire services is reaching critical levels. Phil Clark, Emerging Energy Technologies Lead for the NFCC, points out that fires caused by incorrectly disposed lithium-ion batteries are becoming more frequent and avoidable. These fires, with their explosive nature and emission of toxic gases, pose a unique challenge. The risk of reignition necessitates firefighters to stay on the scene for extended periods, diverting resources from other emergencies.

Environmental and Health Concerns

Beyond the immediate danger, battery fires have broader environmental and health implications. Professor Frank Kelly from Imperial College London has found that waste fires can cause significant spikes in air pollution. Fires in densely populated areas, such as the incidents that happened at Herne Hill and Brentford, have led to exceedances of WHO health-based guidelines for particulate matter (PM2.5), affecting thousands of residents and leading to advisories to stay indoors and avoid opening windows.

The Call to Action

In response to this growing threat, the “Stop Battery Fires” campaign by Recycle Your Electricals and the NFCC aims to raise awareness about the importance of recycling batteries and electrical devices. The campaign highlights the necessity of proper disposal to prevent these destructive fires and reduce their environmental impact.

Scott Butler, Executive Director of Recycle Your Electricals, urges the public to consider the consequences of binning batteries and electricals. “With more and more products containing lithium-ion batteries and battery fires on the rise, it’s vital that we stop these fires and reduce the air pollution impact that they have on our local communities and the dangers they present to firefighters and waste officers. We are throwing away some of the most precious materials on the planet, which are vital to our economy,” he says. “We are calling on everyone to make sure that they never bin and always recycle their electricals and their batteries.”

Mark Andrews, Waste and Recycling Fires Lead for the National Fire Chiefs Council explains the challenge these fires create and the destructive effect this is having on our fire services.

“Fires involving waste have always been challenging, but lithium-ion batteries add significantly to this by creating unknown and unpredictable risks. These fires can be explosive and spread rapidly, with the risk of reignition and toxic gasses a risk to firefighters. These incidents also tie up large numbers of finite fire service resources and firefighters to fully control and extinguish the fire, creating further risks to the community.”

Avon Firefighter. Credit_ Avon Fire and Rescue Service

Credit: Avon Fire and Rescue Service

Practical Steps to Prevent Battery Fires

Preventing battery fires is straightforward but requires public cooperation. Batteries, whether loose or embedded in electronics, should never be discarded with general rubbish. Instead, they should be taken to designated recycling points. Removing batteries from devices before recycling is recommended whenever possible.

A.R. Richards Ltd. has the tools in place to properly dispose of these batteries and encourages everyone to do their due diligence and recycle them with the care and attention these tiny batteries deserve.

The rise in battery fires across the UK is a clear and present danger that demands immediate action. By improving our recycling habits and raising awareness about the risks associated with improper battery disposal, we can mitigate these hazards and protect our communities and environment.

If you are unsure of where to dispose of any electrical goods, you can give us a call to see if we can recycle your old goods, or you can check ‘Recycle Your Electricals – Find your local,’ websites for any local shops that can also take your goods.


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