Spike in waste fires in Northumberland prompts warning to dispose of batteries safely

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Northumberland residents are being warned to dispose of items containing batteries at designated recycling points after a spike in battery-related fires in the county.

There was a 50% increase in fires linked to lithium ion batteries in the last 12 months according to Northumberland County Council, including a serious incident at Alnwick Waste Centre in January that caused significant damage to solar panels on the site.

Battery-related fires are particularly difficult to extinguish as they frequently reignite, endangering firefighters and producing fumes for long periods of time.

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The local authority estimates it costs between £70,000 and £100,000 to combat lithium ion battery fires in bin lorries and at waste sites each year across both prevention and repairing damage.

Fire crews were called to a blaze at Alnwick Waste Centre, caused by a battery, in January. (Photo by Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service)Fire crews were called to a blaze at Alnwick Waste Centre, caused by a battery, in January. (Photo by Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service)
Fire crews were called to a blaze at Alnwick Waste Centre, caused by a battery, in January. (Photo by Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service)

Research by the Recycle Your Electricals campaign and the National Fire Chiefs Council estimates 82m batteries were binned across the North East last year.

Dr Wendy Fail, senior waste management officer at Northumberland County Council, said: “Irresponsible disposal of battery operated devices can have serious consequences, as we have experienced at Northumberland County Council.

“I would urge all residents to dispose of electrical items, including vapes, in a responsible manner using dedicated collection tubes, waste electrical and electronic equipment containers, at household waste recycling centres, or through take back schemes.”

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In 2023, UK waste stream battery fires reached an all-time high of over 1,200, a 71% increase from 2022.

Phil Clark from the National Fire Chiefs Council said: “Fires involving the incorrect disposal of lithium ion batteries are a disaster waiting to happen.

“Fire services are seeing an increasing number of incidents but they are preventable by correctly and carefully disposing of electricals.”

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