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Take charge of your batteries and help prevent fires at Cornwall’s rubbish and recycling facilities

Residents across Cornwall are being asked to recycle old batteries to help prevent fires.

When put in general rubbish, old batteries can cause fires in bin lorries and at the sites where rubbish is processed.

Since the beginning of 2023, there have been two fires that were most likely caused by batteries being thrown in with general rubbish. One broke out on a bin lorry and the other at a household waste and recycling centre.

In 2022 there were several fires caused by batteries at sites operated by SUEZ, which manages Cornwall’s waste and recycling on behalf of Cornwall Council.

Firefighters sift through rubbish following a suspected battery fire

Batteries were identified as the cause of four fires at the sites. There were a further seven fires where batteries may have been responsible but the cause was not confirmed.

Fires at the sites and on rubbish collection lorries cause significant damage and pose a serious risk to members of the public and workers.

Cornwall Council, SUEZ, Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service and Biffa, the contractor Cornwall Council commissions to collect rubbish and recycling on its behalf, are all supporting the national Take Charge campaign. The campaign calls on people to Take Charge of their old batteries and dispose of them responsibly.

Most supermarkets have a battery recycling point or you can take them to your local household waste and recycling centre and put them in the battery box.

Councillor Carol Mould, Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhoods at Cornwall Council, said: “Batteries are in so many different things – old phones, toys, vapes and even singing birthday cards. It’s important that we all remove them before we put items in the rubbish to prevent fires.

“Not only do fires cause a significant amount of damage, they also pose a serious risk to collections crews and people working at our waste and recycling facilities. We don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

Scott Brown, Prevention Lead at Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We’ve attended several fires at these sites over recent months, some of which were quite serious. They are resource intensive and expensive, particularly when the incidents become protracted. This impacts across extended communities due to the cover moves required to maintain operational cover in all towns and villages.”

Craig Mouatt, Contract Processing Manager at SUEZ, said: “Fires caused by batteries put our staff at risk and if they’re not spotted quickly, can cause thousands of pounds worth of damage. It’s really important that people remove them from items and make sure they don’t end up with their rubbish.”

Nigel Carr, Regional General Manager at Biffa, said: “We ask that everyone helps keep our crews safe by keeping batteries out of their bins and recycling them responsibly.”

Press released issued on March 3, 2023

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