Nantycaw’s MRF fire ’caused by phone battery’  

There is “strong evidence” that a huge fire at a materials recycling facility (MRF) in Nantycaws was caused by a battery placed in a blue recycling bag, Carmarthanshire county council has said.

The 'blue bag' MRF at CWM Environmental's Nantycaws site was damaged in the fire (picture: Carmarthenshire county council)

In a statement released today (13 October), the council said that it was believed to be a lithium-ion style battery, usually found in mobile phones.

The fire broke out on 24 April and caused “millions of pounds” worth of damage to the MRF, which is operated by the local authority-owned waste management firm CWM Environmental.

It also forced the adjacent household waste and recycling centre (HWRC) to close to the public for five days.

An investigation into the cause was launched shortly after the fire was extinguished. There were no reported injuries.

Batteries

The council is now calling on residents to remove batteries from any items such as rechargeable items, mobile phones, electric toothbrushes, toys, television remotes from recycling bags, and dispose of them separately at a HWRC.

The fire broke out on the 24 April

Carmarthenshire county council’s cabinet member for environment, Cllr Hazel Evans said: “Thankfully no one was injured in the fire in Carmarthen’s Nantycaws Recycling Centre. Please do not put loose dead batteries or items that hold batteries in your bin bags with other rubbish, it is extremely dangerous and the consequences can be very serious. All our recycling centres have facilities to dispose of your batteries safely as well as many shops and supermarkets that have battery collection points.”

Emergency contract

After the MRF was destroyed in the fire, CWM Environmental began searching for a recycling processor for an emergency 12-month contract.

CWM Environmental issued a tender in June for a £1.8 million contract which could be extended by a further six months.

The emergency contractor is required to collect dry mixed recyclables from designated collection points at Carmarthenshire county council’s Nantycaws, Trostre and Wernddu HWRCs for processing.

‘Real danger’

According to the Environmental Services Association (ESA), in the last five years, fires suspected or proved of being caused by Lithium Ion Batteries have more than doubled with 48% in 2021 compared to 21% in 2016/2017.

Richard Vaughan-Williams, arson reduction manager at Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service explained: “Lithium-ion batteries can be found in an increasing number of consumer items and disposing of such items has become a growing concern, especially for our partners who operate waste management facilities. Even small lithium-ion batteries can present a very real danger of an intense fire which can then spread quickly. We advise those looking to dispose of batteries to carefully consult waste instructions from their local authority.”

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