Working with a range of partners, we have designed and launched a trial campaign to prevent battery fires by encouraging people to recycle batteries separately and safely.

“Batteries can burn and fires can kill – Recycle batteries separately” is the strong message from the new campaign in Merseyside which runs from June to October 2019 and urges people to ‘BeBatterySavvy’.

The campaign is part of the SAFeR WEEE project funded by the WEEE Fund generated from the WEEE Compliance Fee in 2017. We worked alongside Axion Consulting, Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority (MRWA), S Norton, Veolia, Viridor and Wastecare to develop the campaign, the publicity materials and get the trial up and running.  Results from the campaign will be shared in December, and it is hoped they could form the basis of a new voluntary collection protocol for the industry.

Batteries are a serious issue for the waste industry, especially rechargeable ones and, if damaged, can cause intense fires. The Environmental Services Association, the trade body representing the UK’s resource and waste management industry, reports that its members have estimated that nearly 130 fires were caused by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in 2017-18. This is a 5% increase on the previous year.

Three Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) are participating in the trial; South Sefton HWRC in Sefton, Old Swan HWRC in Liverpool and Huyton HWRC in Knowsley. At the HWRCs, people will be able to separate batteries and WEEE (small appliances) into:

1) Batteries (of all types);

2) Small appliances with batteries that cannot be taken out; and

3) Small appliances with the batteries taken out – these will go in with ordinary WEEE.

As well as the special recycling banks, there will be a communications campaign utilising social media, new site signage, training for site operatives and branded hi-vis clothing to raise awareness of the issue of battery fires and the importance of recycling batteries safely as well as making battery recycling at the participating HWRCs highly visible.

Speaking at the launch, Councillor Tony Concepcion, Chairperson of MRWA, said:

“We don’t want to risk fires at our Recycling Centres, or further down the supply chain, so we’ve joined this campaign to make members of the public aware of the dangers batteries can bring. We’ve installed new containers and signage at three of our sites and depending on how the campaign goes could roll this out to the rest of our HWRCs.”

Gareth Morton, our Project Director, said:

“This is a really important trial as battery fires are a big issue for the industry and the public is not aware of the danger or the need to separate batteries so they can be safely recycled. We’re hoping this trial will provide a blueprint for similar initiatives all over the country.”

Scott Butler, WEEE Fund Manager, said:

“We are delighted to support this collaborative project that will explore the safe handling of lithium ion batteries at end of life, and help the UK minimise fire risks at recycling sites.”