Information about Covid19:
Please read our information on how we are supporting residents and businesses, as well as information on affected services.

Recycle your ‘zombie batteries’ safely

Residents in Cornwall are being urged to safely recycle ‘zombie batteries’ following multiple fires at waste and recycling sites in recent years. 

Cornwall Council and SUEZ, which operates the county’s Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) and refuse transfer stations, are supporting the national campaign Take Charge.  

Despite rigid control measures across SUEZ facilities, over the last three years alone, so-called zombie batteries have caused over 15 fires at HWRC and refuse transfer stations sites in Cornwall. 

Zombie batteries are discarded batteries that, if damaged, can cause fires when not recycled or disposed of properly. 

These fires can cause significant damage to buildings and infrastructure, and most concerningly, pose a threat to life and wellbeing of staff, residents and emergency service personnel. 

The Take Charge campaign, launched by the recycling and waste management trade body Environmental Services Association, urges people to never put dead batteries, dubbed ‘zombie batteries’, with their general rubbish or kerbside recycling. 

Residents in Cornwall can recycle most batteries, including button batteries and battery packs from laptops, phones, power tools and remote controls, at any of the county’s HWRCs which will remain open during lockdown. Car batteries can also be recycled at all HWRCs.  

You can also recycle some batteries at supermarkets. 

Dead batteries thrown away with other waste and recycling are likely to be crushed or punctured once the waste is collected and processed.  

Some battery types in particular, like lithium-ion (Li-ion) and nickel-metal Hydride (NiMH), can ignite or even explode when they’re damaged. Once this happens, the batteries can quickly set fire to other materials present in the waste, like paper, leading to serious incidents that put lives at risk.  

Although safe to use normally, powerful lithium-ion batteries are typically the most dangerous if they are not recycled properly. These batteries are often found in products like laptops, tablets, mobile phones, radio-controlled toys, Bluetooth devices, shavers, electric toothbrushes, power tools, scooters and even e-cigarettes.  

Councillor Rob Nolan, portfolio holder for Environment and Public Protection, said: “Old batteries can cause serious fires and potentially put lives at risk. We are asking all residents to recycle batteries safely and responsibly. 

“We suggest that you store them in a box out of the way and when the box is full take them to a HWRC or battery recycling point.” 

Craig Mouatt, processing contract manager at SUEZ, said: “The potential fires caused by batteries in the waste or recycling not only poses a risk for our employees but can seriously damage assets and facilities.  

“Taking unwanted batteries to your local household waste and recycling centre or other recycling point will not only help reduce the likelihood of fires occurring but it also means valuable materials can be recovered for recycling and therefore protect our environment.” 

Scott Brown, from Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service’s Prevention Team, said: “When batteries are included in household waste and recycling it can lead to large scale and protracted fires. 

Continue reading

“Many people may not realise the importance of the correct disposal of batteries so this simple advice can make a real difference in preventing waste fires” 

Find out more about the dangers of zombie batteries on the Take Charge website