13 February 2019 by Joshua Doherty

Viridor issues lithium ion battery warning after landfill fire

Viridor has issued a warning on the safe disposal of lithium ion batteries following a fire at its landfill site in Dunbar last month.

The fire took place in the early hours of January 22 in a waste storage building at the site, and at its peak saw around 40 firefighters dealing with the blaze (see letsrecycle.com story). It is believed to have been caused by a spark from a lithium ion battery igniting residual waste.

(l-r) Scott MacKellar – group manager at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Barry Falgate – Scottish landfill manager at Viridor

The company has now issued a warning alongside the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) highlighting the risks if these batteries are not disposed of correctly.

Speaking at a fire prevention briefing at Viridor’s Dunbar site, Barry Falgate, Viridor’s Scottish landfill manager, said: “With the increasing use of lithium ion batteries in everyday household items, fire risks are growing day-by-day and we’re urging everyone to ensure they put the right stuff in the right bin and they dispose of batteries safely.

“This not only keeps our sites safe and helps boost recycling rates, but also prevents the SFRS being called out to potentially avoidable fires.”

Batteries

Lithium ion batteries are a type of rechargeable battery and can be found in items such as children’s toys, alarms, electric toothbrushes and e-cigarettes.

When these types of batteries are damaged, it can project “a shaft of flame for several minutes” and can ignite surrounding waste material, Viridor warns.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) , the trade body representing the UK’s resource and waste management industry, has previously stated that of the 510 fires reported by ESA members across the UK in 2017-18, a quarter (25%) were attributed to li-ion batteries.

Lithium ion batteries feature in a number of rechargeable products

SFRS group manager Dean Mack added: “We would always advise that, when disposing of potentially volatile items such as electronics and batteries, the public follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.”

Viridor added that staff at landfill sites have also identified the ‘usual suspects’ of landfill fires which include items such as car batteries, gas canisters and laptops.

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