When you throw away your old gadgets after buying new gear for Christmas, you might want to think about removing the batteries first.
Indeed, Material Focus research found that more than 700 fires have been started this year in garbage trucks and recycling centers by discarded electrical appliances.
Batteries can be punctured by other elements during the disposal process, damaging the separation between the electrodes and causing them to explode or ignite.
If the batteries come in contact with another piece of metal, they can also ignite, with nearby dry waste acting like kindling.
New research finds more than three times as many fires occur in waste streams as a result of discarded batteries than was reported in 2021
Fire-causing gadgets are typically small, cheap, and frequently used, such as electric toothbrushes, razors, and chargers.
HOW TO RECYCLE YOUR OLD GADGETS
Remove all batteries and bulbs if you can.
If you are recycling a smart device or computer, remove the memory card or delete all of its data.
Separate batteries and devices into two bags.
Take both to the nearest recycling point, such as recycling centers, libraries and supermarkets.
If your town hall offers a battery and gadget recycling service, you can leave the bags outside on collection day.
Never put the batteries in the general trash.
Source: Recycle your electrical appliances
Material Focus, a pro-recycling organisation, questioned 60 UK local authorities about fires it had suffered which were caused by crushed or damaged batteries in the waste stream.
He revealed that there are more than three times as many fires as in 2021, and almost 90% of those polled believe it is a growing problem.
Responsible gadgets tend to be small, cheap and frequently used, such as electric toothbrushes, razors and chargers.
These are also the types of electrical devices that consumers don’t realize have batteries that they should remove.
According to the Environmental Services Association, lithium-ion batteries are responsible for around 48% of all waste fires in the UK each year.
Battery fires not only pose a direct threat to the public and waste management staff, but also cost an estimated £158m a year in damage.
Mickey, a Buckinghamshire Council refuse lorry driver who was the victim of a lorry fire, said: ‘In the space of minutes it went from a little smoke to flames leaping two feet from the garbage truck.
“On this occasion we were lucky, we were able to get to a safe place, which meant no one was hurt.
“We were also able, with the support of the fire brigade, to extinguish the fire.
“However, these types of fires, if we were on a residential street, could cause incalculable damage.
“As things stand, our trucks are often badly damaged, causing hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage.”
A survey of 2,001 UK adults in August 2021 showed that up to 45% of households are unaware of the dangers of leaving batteries in their electrical waste. Pictured: A plume of smoke rises from a bin at a recycling center in the UK
HOW MUCH IS YOUR TECH WORTH TO RESELL?
Games console resale value can range from a £110 Xbox One to a £200 Nintendo Switch.
The tablets can be resold for between £193 and £420.
The resale value of the laptops ranges between £274 and £420.
The desktops, including the monitor, could be resold for around £25.
Learn more here
A survey of 2,001 UK adults in August 2021 showed that up to 45% of households are unaware of the dangers of leaving batteries in their electrical waste.
It also found that 40% of households don’t know how to safely recycle their old batteries, while 25% don’t know how to dispose of small rechargeable electrical appliances.
Scott Butler, executive director of Material Focus, said: “People should never throw away their electrical devices or portable batteries.
“If they can, they should remove all hidden batteries from their electrical devices and recycle batteries and electrical devices separately.
“If they can’t remove the batteries, they should recycle their electrical devices separately, as always.”
Research this week by Material Focus found that 41% of adults nationwide plan to buy more tech this holiday season, which could lead to the purchase of 53.5 million new electrical devices over the next four next weeks.
Almost a quarter of us also buy more gadgets during Black Friday and Christmas weeks than at any other time of the year.
Battery fires not only pose a direct threat to the public and waste management staff, but they also cost around £158million a year in damage. Pictured: A member of staff standing next to a treadmill at a recycling center (left) before jumping back after a sudden explosion (right)
As a result, Materials Focus launched the “Stop Battery Fires” campaign to raise awareness of how households can reduce the risk of fire by safely recycling their gadgets.
More than 70 local authorities will promote the safe removal of batteries and that they should be recycled separately from the device.
If you are unable to remove the batteries, the entire device should be recycled separately from your other trash, they say.
Mark Andrews, National Fire Council Waste Fire Manager, said: “We urge people to recycle electrical appliances and batteries and do not dispose of them with general household waste.
“People are often surprised to learn that batteries can cause fires in garbage trucks and waste processing plants, but they do and, as we use and dispose of more electronic devices, these incidents are not uncommon.
“These fires can be difficult for fire services to manage, have a significant impact on local communities and present a real risk to personnel working on trucks and waste treatment plants.
“Everyone can do their part and prevent fires by making sure they dispose of electrical appliances properly.”
People can find the nearest recycling point for batteries and electrical appliances by visiting the Recycle Your Electricals website.
Scientists invent method to recycle lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars
Lithium-ion batteries, found in smartphones, electric vehicles and laptops, present a future toxic waste disaster as they run out, but a startup claims to have the solution.
Ascend Elements, based in Westborough, Massachusetts, has created a process that shreds used batteries and transforms them into cathode materials, ready to be made into future working batteries and placed inside electric vehicles.
The process creates a powder called “black mass”, which is then filtered to remove impurities, and all individual metallic elements are extracted, reducing the need for additional mining.
These recycled batteries can be custom-made to suit a specific manufacturer, last longer than traditional EV batteries and can be charged more often, the company said.
Learn more here
Lithium-ion batteries, found in cellphones, electric vehicles and laptops, present a future toxic waste disaster as they run out, but a startup claims to have the solution
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