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Batteries are everywhere, powering many of the devices that are essential to modern life. However, the majority of fires in the waste management industry are caused by the incorrect disposal of batteries. This is why Bywaters works closely with our clients to provide safe and sustainable battery recycling solutions.

The Problem with Batteries

Batteries are hard to handle from a waste management perspective because they are composed of a variety of materials. While many of these are harmless and can be recycled, there are some that are hazardous and require special handling in order to mitigate risk.

One problem when it comes to disposing of batteries is the sheer amount of them we use. From laptops and phones to cars and common appliances, batteries help power our lives – it is estimated that we throw away 600 million batteries each year in the UK. This is why it is so essential that work is done to ensure these are disposed of safely.

If batteries are put in the wrong stream it can pose risks to workers who are not expecting to handle hazardous materials, and also to waste management facilities themselves through the greatly increased danger of a large fire breaking out.

Fire Risk from Lithium-Ion Batteries

The greatest danger posed by batteries is the risk of fire they carry. When it comes to the waste management industry, this is by far the greatest risk faced by companies such as Bywaters when carrying out our services.

Batteries, especially lithium-ion batteries that are commonly found in smartphones and other pieces of personal technology, can catch fire rapidly. As Industrial waste management sites – such as our materials recovery facility in Bow – store large amounts of dry mixed recycling and cardboard waste, fires can spread fast and cause millions of pounds of damage if not extinguished immediately.

Just how quickly a lithium-ion battery can catch fire is demonstrated in this video, and it’s easy to imagine how, if this ignition process were to happen either in the back of a dustcart or when surrounded by many flammable materials in a recycling facility, it can quickly create a major hazard.

Mitigating Risk

To combat the risk to both our facility and to the lives of our employees, Bywaters has a wide-range of fire prevention measures in pace. These include thermal imaging cameras, sprinkler systems, auto-detecting water cannons, an auto-suppression system throughout the facility, and a dedicated rapid response team.

The number of preventative actions we need to take as a company is evidence of just how significant the risk is, and in addition to these measures we always ensure that there are trained staff on each shift able to respond to any incidents as they occur. Additionally, we do our best to remove batteries out of other waste streams as early as possible.

To try and remove as many batteries as possible from waste as it comes into the facility, our team of pickers do their best to take out any and all batteries from waste as it moves into our MRF on beltlines. This helps mitigate fire risk, but is unfortunately never going to eliminate 100% of batteries as they are often very small and hard to see.

By far the best option available, however, is to work with our clients to educate them on the need to dispose of batteries correctly – ensuring that batteries don’t turn up anywhere that our staff aren’t expecting them and that we provide all-round recycling services for our customers.

Specialised Battery Recycling Services

To avoid all the hazards discussed above, Bywaters is able to provide battery recycling services to all our clients. This is by far the safest and most sustainable way to dispose of used batteries and something we encourage all our partners to use on their sites.

Not only does streaming batteries into a separate waste stream mitigate the risk of fire, it also enables Bywaters to ensure that all your waste batteries are sent to our dedicated recycling partners so that all recyclable elements can be reused, preserving natural resources.

If you want to find out more about how our battery recycling services can work for your business, please get in touch.


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