‘BeBatterySavvy’ to Cut Fires at Waste Facilities & Boost Recycling

Firefighters & Recycling Industry Team up to Cut Battery Fires in Merseyside

In a bid to prevent battery fires at waste facilities and to encourage people to recycle them separately and safely, the Liverpool City Region has launched the ‘BeBatterySavvy’ campaign.

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In a bid to prevent battery fires at waste facilities and to encourage people to recycle them separately and safely, the Liverpool City Region has launched the ‘BeBatterySavvy’ campaign.

“Batteries can burn and fires can kill - Recycle batteries separately” is the strong message from the new campaign running from June to October 2019 urging people to ‘BeBatterySavvy’ and recycle their batteries separately and safely. 

The campaign is part of the SAFeR WEEE project which aims to find out whether people are willing to separate batteries for recycling. This trial is being spearheaded locally by Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority (MRWA) and Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, working with Axion, Eunomia Consulting, S Norton, Veolia, Viridor and Wastecare.

The SAFeR WEEE project is funded by the WEEE Fund generated from the WEEE Compliance Fee in 2017. Results from the trial will be shared in December, and it is hoped they could form the basis of a new voluntary collection protocol for the industry.

The MRWA noted that batteries are a serious issue for the waste industry, especially rechargeable ones which are used in all kinds of electronic products and, if damaged, can cause intense fires, for example:

  • A large fire in February 2019 at a St Helens’ based Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) plant run by waste company Viridor
  •  A small fire in May 2019 caused by a laptop battery in a recycling collection vehicle belonging to Harrogate Borough Council in North Yorkshire.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA), the trade body representing the UK’s resource and waste management industry, reports that its members think nearly 130 fires were caused by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in 2017-18. This is a 5% increase on the previous year.

The three Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC) participating in the trial areSouth 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

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.

Tony Concepcion, Councillor and Chairperson of MRWA said: “We’re seeing an increase in the amount of electrical items coming into our Recycling Centres, which is to be expected considering the number of gadgets people use these days. However, this increase is matched by a rise in the number of batteries which, as we’ve seen around the country, can be a potential danger. 

“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.”

Scott Butler, WEEE Fund Manager added: “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.”

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