7 June 2024

Public warned to avoid binning batteries and to use three steps to prevent fires

| Claire Sams
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Burnt batteries from fire

Burnt batteries were found by investigators in the Hume recycling facility’s waste compactor and chute. Photo: ACT Fire and Rescue report.

Bega Valley residents have been reminded to make sure they’re disposing batteries properly.

“Batteries, particularly lithium-ion rechargeable ones, present significant fire and contamination risks to the environment,” said Bega Valley Shire Council’s waste education officer Rebecca Bruce.

“Because of the volatility of batteries used in products like power tools and laptop computers, our staff are frequently dealing with fires caused by lithium-ion batteries at our landfill site.

“This adds to fires that take place in waste trucks and household bins simply because batteries have entered the waste stream.”

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Ms Bruce pointed to the 2022 fire in the ACT at the Hume Materials Recovery Facility in Canberra as an example of how important it was to handle batteries safely.

“This facility processed all of our shire’s recycling. Now council must pay extra to transport recycling to the Kurrajong Recycling Facility in Wagga Wagga,” she said.

An ACT Fire and Rescue investigation found that the presence of multiple types of batteries in the Hume facility’s waste compactor area led to the fire.

While it was accidental fire, it was caused by thermal runaway in one or more lithium-ion batteries.

“A good tip is to regularly recycle batteries to make taping [using clear tape to cover the terminals at the ends of a battery so it won’t spark and catch fire] less of a chore and minimise fire risks at home,” Ms Bruce said.

“Recycling can recover 95 per cent of a battery’s components for use in new batteries or other industries.

“They contain hazardous materials like lead, cadmium and mercury, which can harm people, animals and the environment if not disposed of properly.”

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There are simple steps residents can take to reduce the fire risk from batteries.

“First, never dispose of batteries in any of your household bins. Fires can start in your bin, waste trucks, or landfill, posing significant risks and releasing toxic fumes,” Ms Bruce said.

“Second, a recommendation from the B-cycle National Battery Stewardship Scheme is to cover battery terminals with clear sticky tape before disposal.

“This significantly reduces the risk of fires and applies to all household batteries, including button batteries.

“Third, use only approved facilities for battery recycling.”

In Bega Valley Shire, residents and visitors can dispose of batteries at several locations:

  • Community Recycling Centre at the Merimbula Waste and Recycling Centre
  • Mobile Community Recycling Centre (this rotates through the Bermagui, Wallagoot and Eden Waste and Recycling centres on a scheduled basis throughout the year)
  • Community recycling stations at local libraries around the shire
  • B-cycle drop-off bins in select local shops and supermarkets.

More information on council’s Community Recycling Centre, library recycling stations and the mobile CRC schedule is available via the council’s website. The public can find their nearest B-cycle drop-off point and learn more about the National Battery Stewardship Scheme by visiting the B-cycle website.

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