Putting batteries in the bin? You could be in for a shock!

West Sussex residents are being warned not to throw batteries and electrical items away in their household bins as they could unintentionally start a fire.

Since August 2022, there have been 24 fires across the County Council’s recycling and waste plants; evidence points to batteries being the leading cause.

Batteries contain hazardous metals and chemicals that harm the environment if they aren’t responsibly recycled. They can become damaged from crushing during the collection and sorting process, causing paper, plastics, and other materials to catch alight.

Many items, such as e-cigarettes or vapes, contain ‘hidden’ batteries which people might not realise are there so it’s important to dispose of them correctly to reduce the risk of them starting a fire once in the bin.

Deborah Urquhart, West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, said: “These recent incidents highlight just how important it is to dispose of batteries and electrical items safely, and there are a number of ways you can do this.

“You can take old or broken electrical items to any of our recycling centres in West Sussex, or if your item is in good condition, you could consider donating it instead. Electricals contain valuable components such as metals, plastic and glass which can be recycled into new products.”

You can also check to see whether your district or borough council offers a kerbside collection service for batteries or small electricals.

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service’s Deputy Chief Fire Officer Mark Andrews, who is also the National Fire Chief’s Council National Lead on Waste and Recycling Management, said: “Batteries pose a serious risk when thrown away in general waste or recycling bins and it only takes one to start a fire.

“What may start as a small fire can quickly spread and become much larger inside a collection vehicle or at a waste transfer site. This puts staff at risk, disrupts services and can result in significant damage. It also puts pressure on our ability to attend other emergencies where lives could be at risk.

“If you have old batteries to get rid of, please take them to your local recycling centre, or to a dedicated collection point which you can find in many shops and supermarkets that sell batteries.”