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Batteries have become an integral part of our lives, powering everything from cell phones and laptops to cars and household appliances. While they may seem small and insignificant, batteries have a significant impact on the environment if not disposed of properly. Recycling batteries is important for many reasons, including protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, and reducing the risk of hazardous waste. It is important to note however, that they must be disposed of responsibly and not in your recycling or general waste bin at home.
When batteries are not properly disposed of, they can cause significant damage to the environment. Over time, the chemicals and heavy metals in the batteries can leak out and contaminate the soil and water. This can harm plants, animals, and humans who depend on these natural resources.
By recycling batteries, we can prevent these harmful substances from polluting the environment. Recycling centres use specialised equipment to safely and efficiently extract the metals and chemicals from the batteries, reducing the risk of pollution and protecting the environment for future generations.
Batteries are made from a variety of materials, including metals like nickel, cadmium, and lead, as well as chemicals like lithium and sulfuric acid. These materials are all finite resources that can be expensive and difficult to extract from the earth.
When we recycle batteries, we can recover these valuable materials and use them to create new batteries and other products. This reduces the need for new mining and extraction, conserving natural resources and reducing the environmental impact of these activities.
Batteries contain many hazardous materials, including heavy metals and toxic chemicals. When batteries are not disposed of properly, they can pose a significant risk to public health and safety. These hazardous materials can leach out of the batteries and contaminate soil, water, and air.
Recycling batteries helps to reduce the amount of hazardous waste that ends up in landfills and other disposal sites. By safely extracting the materials and chemicals from the batteries, recycling centres can minimize the risk of contamination and protect public health.
Batteries can be dangerous if they are discarded in everyday recycling or general waste.
There are many reports of serious fires that have transpired due to the incorrect disposal of batteries, which can be seen at the end of this article. This isn’t just an issue in the UK, but all over the world.
Internet searches reveal records of significant fire incidents within the last 3 years attributed to discarded batteries across the UK in Cornwall, Carmarthenshire, Lincolnshire x 2, Gateshead x 4, South Tyneside, Cheshire, Pendle, Teesside, North Wales, Brighton and Scarborough plus Tulsa (USA) , Baltimore (US), California (USA) and Queensland (AUS)
Li-ion batteries are more recently common in any household electrical and electronic items such as mobile phones. The batteries powering such items can cause a significant fire risk when they are mixed with recycling waste streams. This risk applies whether the batteries are loose or remain inside the electrical item. If the battery is damaged, chemically react or exposed to sparks or high temperatures during waste processing systems, it can cause a fire to start and spread to the waste around it. This can occur inside containers at HWRCs, inside refuse collection wagons and at the waste processing facilities.
This can ultimately result in the disruption of waste services, millions of pounds worth of damage, the ruin of businesses, extra strain on Fire and Emergency Services, environmental damage and most importantly, lives are put at risk.
In the UK, the Waste Industry and Local Authorities are expected to prevent this, despite the UK Waste Legislation’s over riding policy principle of the polluter pays. However, in the instance of a fire caused by the incorrect disposal of batteries, it is not the case.
Where is the lead by Defra, the Health and Safety Executive or the Environmental Agency? It should not cost the life of a waste worker for this issue to be acted on. A properly funded national campaign will highlight the correct disposal of batteries and the risks of not doing so. The government makes big revenues from Landfill Tax or could be able to introduce a levy through compliance schemes on the manufactures of batteries or products that use them to pay for this.
Here at J&B we have invested significantly in preventing waste fires by improved controls and infrastructure at our sites. We aren’t alone in that of course but it’s about time focus was shifted to divert batteries and WEEE products from the mixed recycling and general waste collections in the first place.
An article by Euonmia sums this up: “If we don’t start to take action now, the increased use of Li-ion batteries, will only increase the cost and impact of Li-ion battery waste fires in the years to come.
Here are some examples of the damage extent that can be caused by the improper waste management of batteries:
Resource Recycling: MRF operator: Lithium-ion batteries are ‘ticking time bombs’
Lets Recycle: Nantycaws MRF fire ’caused by phone battery’
J&B Recycling provide waste management solutions for business across the North of England. Our main Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) is based in Hartlepool and we have a second site in Middlesbrough, making us ideally placed for collections across Teesside (Hartlepool, Stockton, Middlesbrough and Darlington). We also have a site in Washington and we operate established collection routes throughout Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Sunderland, North Tyneside and Northumberland. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if we can help with your waste collection.