MID Devon District Council has issued advice after two incidents of improper battery disposal have caused two fires on Mid Devon refuse lorries in one day.
On Monday, September 25, a small fire broke out in the back of a waste collection vehicle in Bradninch.
The driver noticed in his camera system a large amount of smoke bellowing out of the hopper at the back of the vehicle.
When investigated, a battery was found that had been compacted and caught fire. This was disposed of in a black waste bin rather than recycled correctly.
Thankfully, the fire was contained and extinguished without significant property damage or injuries.
On the very same day, a second fire broke out, this time at the Council’s depot in Willand.
Once again, a discarded battery was found to be the cause.
The fire occurred whilst the depot team were baling cardboard – they noticed smoke coming from the top of the baler and took swift action to stop production.
The bale of cardboard that had caught fire was taken outside and broken down.
Crushed batteries were found which had caused them to ignite.
Mid Devon District Council said: “Had this not been noticed immediately, it may have resulted in a major fire causing extensive damage to property and putting lives at risk.
“These incidents underline the critical importance of proper battery disposal.
“Batteries, especially lithium-ion batteries commonly found in everyday devices, can pose a severe fire hazard when disposed of incorrectly.
“Recycling batteries correctly is not only a matter of safety but also a vital environmental responsibility.
“Batteries contain hazardous materials that can leach into the soil and water if not recycled properly. By ensuring batteries are placed in designated recycling boxes, we contribute to the protection of our environment and reduce the risk of accidents like these fires.”
To prevent further incidents, the Council is launching an awareness campaign focused on the proper disposal of batteries.
It is urging residents to follow these essential guidelines:
1 Use designated recycling boxes: General household batteries can be recycled as part of your fortnightly recycling collection - batteries must be placed in a clear plastic bag or tub, and left on top of the black box clearly visible for our collection crews. It does not collect Lithium-Ion batteries at this time.
2 Wrap or tape batteries: Used batteries are not always completely discharged so take caution when disposing of multiple used batteries that could come into contact with one another. To dispose of the batteries safely, cover the positive terminal of each battery with tape.
3 Drop off at recycling centres: When in doubt, consider dropping off batteries at designated recycling centres or collection points.
4 Educate others: Spread the word about the importance of proper battery disposal to friends, family, and neighbours.
Councillor Josh Wright, Cabinet Member for Environment and Services, said: “By working together and using the correct recycling boxes, we can prevent future incidents and create a safer, more sustainable community.
“Luckily our staff dealt with these incidents very quickly, but if unnoticed these could have had major consequences.”
For more information on what to put out and where, please visit: www.middevon.gov.uk/recycling-guidance.