Safety awareness lithium batteries: The British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) has called for greater awareness among the public about the dangers of lithium ion batteries. There has been an increasing number of fires caused by this type of battery, either through the improper disposal or through incorrect use.
Lithium ion batteries are used to power e-scooters and e-bikes. Incidents of fires where these batteries have been identified as the cause have risen from 67 in 2020 to 167 in 2021. Part of the rise has been blamed on the increased use of lithium batteries to convert standard bikes into electric bikes.
E-cyclists are being urged to make sure that all batteries and chargers are compliant with the relevant product safety standards. The onus should also be on sellers and manufacturers to ensure that their products are safe to use. Lithium ion battery fires can be especially serious because the fires are intense and fast developing.
James Kelly, chief executive of the BMRA, said: “These figures underline the need, once again, for more education and communication about the dangers of lithium-ion batteries found in rechargeable items, including e-bikes and e-scooters.”
He added: “This is a growing problem, which is putting the safety of members of the public, and those working right across the recycling sector at risk. For too long it has been ignored, which is why the BMRA is now calling for a government supported campaign to better inform the public of the hazards both for safe use and disposal of lithium-ion batteries.”
Mr Kelly continued: “Councils need to introduce kerbside collections for discarded WEEE items. That is because we are seeing increased fires happening in bin lorries and at household waste recycling centres as well as metal recycling sites like those of our members where these items can end up in the incorrect waste stream. People’s lives are at risk.”
Furthermore, according to a report in Materials Recycling World last year, over 600 fires in bin lorries and at recycling centres were caused by batteries, particularly those hidden in small electrical items such as toothbrushes and toys.
The figures were based on a survey by Material Focus, which recently ran a campaign to raise awareness of the safe recycling of batteries.
Executive director Scott Butler said: “People should never bin their electricals or their portable batteries. If they can, they should remove any hidden batteries from their electricals and recycle the batteries and electricals separately. If they can’t remove the batteries then they should recycle their electricals separately as always.”
Mark Andrews, National Fire Chiefs Council’s waste fires lead, said: “These fires can be challenging for fire services to deal with, have a significant impact on local communities and present a real risk to staff working on lorries and waste plants. Everyone can do their bit to prevent fires by ensuring they dispose of electrical items correctly.”
90% of local authorities who responded to the survey reported that battery fire incidents were becoming more frequent.
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