Aerosols, barbecues, batteries bring risk of bin blaze

Gadget users are being urged “don’t bin that battery” and to take other steps to avoid the risk of setting off a blaze in their rubbish bin that could endanger their home and family.

They are among a range of materials – including the remains of portable barbecues, aerosols, broken glass and the contents of ashtrays – that need careful handling to prevent potentially fatal fires.

The warning about aerosols, batteries, barbecues and other materials follows two recent unexplained accidental fires in Somerset; one in a household rubbish bin in Chard that threated to spread to a house and another in refuse added to the landfill site at Dimmer near Castle Cary.

All batteries need care as they hold the potential to “short” and create sparks, while their poisonous chemical cocktail means they should always be recycled rather than sent to landfill.

Many batteries even have a logo of a crossed-out wheeled bin to show that they should never be added to rubbish.

But there are particular concerns about the many lithium-ion batteries used in mobile phones, cameras and other portable devices with high power demands.

The power levels and light construction of li-ion batteries brings the risk of a fire or explosion if they get bent, broken or pierced when discarded into rubbish bins or black sacks.

There is a high potential for a blaze that takes days to put out if batteries are crushed in a rubbish truck and buried in a landfill site.

Recent years have seen a number of waste-related incidents, including fires in rubbish bins, refuse trucks and landfill sites, and even blaze deaths. Yet all batteries can be recycled.

Many outlets, from most supermarkets to DIY and electrical stores, take batteries for recycling, and while not yet collected at the kerbside, batteries are taken at all Somerset recycling sites.

A Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) spokesman said: “Batteries are a real fire risk in your rubbish, especially the high power li-ion type, so recycling is the smart and safe option.”

“And, since single-use batteries are a very costly and inefficient power source, better to use the mains or invest in rechargeable batteries to save money, resources and time.”

Batteries are among several waste fire hazards that should not be added to rubbish, including:

  • Hot ash from fires or barbecues, or the not fully extinguished contents of ashtrays; these must be damped down fully or allowed to cool completely.
  • Broken glass that can act as a magnifying lens in landfill if not carefully wrapped.
  • Aerosols that can get hot or be pierced or crushed during collection and landfilling.

As well as recycling all batteries, the advice is simple in each case:

  • Let ash, portable barbecues and the contents of ashtrays completely cool, or fully damp them down with water.
  • Carefully wrap and bag broken glass, which should never go in recycling boxes.
  • Use up aerosols completely, do not squash, discard the caps and tops, and then add to your recycling boxes.

The SWP spokesman added: “Of course, single-use batteries are a very costly and inefficient way to power many devices. Far better is to work electrical equipment off the mains or, if portability is essential, rechargeable batteries are an excellent investment, saving money, resources and time.”

One neat way to collect batteries is to make a “battery box” out of an empty and dry small plastic milk bottle. Leave the top on, cut a hole in the side away from the handle, add batteries as they become spent, and then take them with you when next going to a recycling site or supermarket.

Check here for more about what to recycle, where and how.