#PowerToDoMore – keeping batteries safe

In the UK, around 40,000 tonnes of portable batteries are sold each year. However, in 2018, only 8,000 tonnes were recycled. For local authorities, the impact of such a large number of batteries evading responsible disposal routes can be dangerous and costly, as well as environmentally unsound.

One of the greatest issues – aside from the leakage of hazardous chemicals in landfill – is the potential for outbreaks of fire. Incidents of battery-related fires seem to be on the increase; often, they are small-scale, but even the smallest fire results in downtime and damage to equipment. A fire which manages to take hold can cause injury or even fatalities, not to mention the need to replace costly equipment and buildings, and the loss of other waste streams damaged in the process.

The solution is to keep batteries away from materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and council buildings. In recent years, the number of lithium batteries on sale has doubled. These, in particular, are prone to ignition. If the batteries are damaged or, where terminals touch, they ignite easily.

Most local authorities collect batteries, either through kerbside collections, household waste recycling sites (HWRCs) or via commercial routes, which also include public sector organisations such as schools and police stations. Not surprisingly, accessibility is a key factor for success. Kerbside collections tend to yield the greatest volume. For example, a well-organised kerbside scheme might collect a tonne of batteries every month, while a HWRC is more likely to result in one tonne over a whole year.

To help our local authority partners to divert greater volumes of batteries for recycling, we support collections from kerbside, HWRCs and commercial sources. For businesses and public sector organisations such as schools and council offices, we provide free battery boxes that are exchanged when full. In 2019, we teamed up with logistics provider Zedify in Cambridge and London to launch the world’s first ever zero-carbon small battery collection, which has been shortlisted for two categories of the National Recycling Awards.

As part of our #PowerToDoMore battery awareness campaign, Valpak has pledged to donate £5 to the charity Springfield Mind with every battery collection box ordered. Our July campaign raised over £2,500.

Finding new ways to raise awareness will benefit local authorities, staff, and the environment. In 2019, we helped Shropshire County Council to build on its small WEEE service by running a successful social media campaign that resulted in an extra 21 tonnes of small appliance recycling and we are looking to launch something similar for portable batteries in the near future. If your authority would like to discuss battery recycling, please get in touch: info@valpak.co.uk


Opinions expressed in this blog belong to the blogger and not necessarily to LARAC