Prevent fires by disposing of batteries properly

Campaign launched to highlight the dangers of 'zombie batteries'

Residents are being urged to watch out for ‘zombie batteries’ in a bid to prevent fires breaking out at the county’s household waste recycling centres (HWRCs).

Oxfordshire County Council is supporting the new national ‘Take Charge’ campaign, which calls on people to only dispose of dead batteries – dubbed ‘zombie batteries’ – by using specialist battery recycling services, and to never throw them away alongside general rubbish or other recycling.

Councillor Yvonne Constance, Oxfordshire County Council Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “Everyone can play their part in ensuring the safety of both the public and that of the staff working at our waste and recycling centres by disposing of their dead batteries responsibly. Batteries are accepted at all of our HWRCs. You can also approach staff at your local centre if you have an item with a battery in it which you are unable to remove, rather than placing it directly into the container.”

Dead batteries are likely to be crushed or punctured once the waste is collected and processed. Some battery types, such as lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride, can ignite or even explode when they’re damaged, causing fires which can set light to other materials in the waste, such as paper and cardboard, putting lives at risk.

Lithium-ion batteries are often found in products like laptops, tablets, mobile phones, radio-controlled toys, Bluetooth devices, shavers, electric toothbrushes, power tools, scooters and even e-cigarettes.

The recycling and waste management trade body, the Environmental Services Association (ESA), which launched the campaign, said that between April 2019 and March 2020, lithium-ion batteries were thought to be responsible for more than 250 fires at its members’ facilities.

Executive Director of the ESA, Jacob Hayler, said: “Unfortunately, the majority of batteries thrown away in the UK at the moment are not recycled properly. Fires caused by carelessly discarded batteries endanger lives, cause millions of pounds of damage and disrupt waste services. We urge consumers to please recycle batteries responsibly by using widely available local battery recycling services.”

All seven of the county council’s HWRCs, operated by FCC Environment and W&S Recycling, accept batteries for recycling, while there are also many other local collection points around Oxfordshire. Batteries are also accepted by Oxford City, Cherwell, West Oxfordshire, South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse district councils. Residents can place them inside an envelope or clear bag on top of their bin on collection days. Waste Wizard can be used to check for specific information about kerbside collections.

HWRCs will remain open to the public during the period of increased COVID-19 restrictions, being brought in from 5 November - 2 December. Residents are asked to continue to maintain social distancing when using the centres, while being mindful of other residents and the teams working across the sites. The site at Redbridge in Oxford will, however, be closed to the public from 9 - 30 November due to essential repair work.