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Warning about battery disposal

Publication date:

Residents in St Albans District are urged to dispose properly of batteries after a spate of fires on bin trucks.

Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) – commonly used in portable electronics like mobile phones and computers - can spark a blaze if they are crushed by a waste vehicle’s compactor.

There have been three fires on trucks this year that may have been caused by LIBs thrown into wheeled brown bins for non-recyclable waste.

Fortunately, the blazes were spotted quickly and the fire service was alerted and able to arrive in time to extinguish them.

However, two years ago a blaze that may have been caused by a battery completely engulfed one of waste contractor Veolia’s vehicles in Harpenden. The crew managed to escape without injury.

LIBs are a well-known safety hazard as they contain highly-flammable material that can explode and erupt into flames if damaged.

Rechargeable LIBs are also used in electric power tools, computer game consoles, digital cameras, torches and garden equipment.

They should be disposed of, along with other small electrical items, as recyclable waste by being put in a plastic bag beside a wheeled bin or bag and are collected weekly.

A recent survey, conducted by Veolia, showed that 57% of people were unaware that LIBs can spark fires if they are not disposed of properly.

Councillor Anthony Rowlands, Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Heritage and Public Realm for St Albans City and District Council, said:

With more people working from home, using laptops and other equipment, we are likely to see a rise in discarded batteries.

What I urge people to remember is that Lithium-ion batteries can be extremely dangerous and that they can be recycled.

We have a weekly collection for small electrical items, so there is absolutely no need for them to be put into their waste bins.

I’m sure our residents will support our efforts to recycle these materials safely, so we can preserve our precious resources and protect the green economy.

Picture: the burned-out refuse truck from the 2018 fire (top); a typical Lithium-ion battery (bottom).

Councillor contact: Councillor Anthony Rowlands, Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Heritage and Public Realm,, 07761 232064.

Media contact: John McJannet, Principal Communications Officer, St Albans City District Council: 01727-819533,