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Top tips for recycling dangerous 'hidden' batteries

Lancashire County Council is highlighting top tips for disposing of 'hidden batteries' after three fires blazed through its waste facilities in just two months.

Batteries are everywhere in our homes, from toys, toothbrushes, remote controls, mobile phones, and e-cigarettes, known as vapes, to doorbells.  Around 40,000 tonnes of batteries were sold in the UK in 2020, but less than half of them were properly recycled.

Now the county council has launched a new campaign to warn of the dangers of incorrect battery disposal, and encourage people to safely recycle them.

Batteries need to be disposed of in the right way because they contain chemicals that are hazardous to the environment. If they are put into household bins, they can cause fires at homes, in waste collection vehicles or at our waste processing facilities, putting people at risk, and disrupting services.

If they are not disposed of properly, they can leak chemicals, such as lead, nickel, cadmium, zinc and even mercury. Safe disposal allows these non-renewable resources to be safely extracted and reused.

The top tips are:

  • Never put batteries in normal rubbish or recycling bins
  • Use rechargeable batteries where you can
  • You can recycle batteries at any of our recycling centres. They can also be recycled at some supermarkets and smaller shops that sell batteries – see Recycle Now
  • Remove batteries from broken devices (if safe to do so) and recycle the device and battery separately
  • If you can’t safely remove the battery for example in an e-cigarette or electric toothbrush, recycle the device with the battery inside using the small electricals container at household waste recycling centres.

County Councillor Shaun Turner, cabinet member for environment and climate change, said: "After three significant fires in just two months at our waste facilities, which were caused by potentially deadly hidden batteries which had been disposed of incorrectly, we are keen to signpost people to the right place.

"We know that many of our residents are very careful about recycling and are passionate about the environment and recycling. It's very important to us here at the council and we would like to highlight the many ways that you can dispose of these items safely.

"It's clear that the 'hidden' nature of the batteries inside vapes, electric toothbrushes and children's toys makes them a risk as people simply aren't aware that they cannot go in the rubbish bin or recycling bin. We want our residents to know that there are lots of ways to recycle these batteries – in ways that cause no risk to themselves, our staff or emergency services personnel."

Our website has a range of information and advice about recycling and disposing of household waste. For more information, go to www.lancashire.gov.uk/waste