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Material Focus has launched a public-facing campaign with the aim to raise awareness of what action householders can take to tackle the “increasing” issue of battery fires.
A not-for-profit organisation funded by the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) compliance fee, Material Focus is also behind the UK-wide ‘Recycle Your Electricals’ campaign.
The ‘Stop Battery Fires’ campaign, with which more than 80 local authorities are involved, instructs householders to remove batteries from electricals and recycle each separately.
If the batteries cannot be removed, then electricals should be recycled separately from other waste, Material Focus says.
Scott Butler, executive director of Material Focus, said the national campaign would target people via “online and offline media channels”, including radio, posters, YouTube, emails, paid advertising across social media and the local authorities’ own channels.
Asked whether it was possible to tackle battery fires without kerbside WEEE collections, Mr Butler said: “It needs to be more convenient for more people to access reuse and recycling drop-off points for batteries and electricals.
“More retailer collections and more household collections are key parts of making it easier and Material Focus are working with retailers and local authorities on this.
“We expect government and industry stakeholders to consider the possibility of mandatory household collections in upcoming consultations on waste electricals and portable battery regulations.”
Electricals containing batteries that tend to be discarded the most are smaller, frequently used and often cheaper, such as toothbrushes, shavers, chargers and toys, Material Focus says.
As part of the campaign, Mark Andrews, the Chief Fire Officers Association’s national strategic lead for waste and recycling site fires, urged people not to dispose of batteries and electricals in their general waste.
He said: “People are often surprised to hear that batteries can cause fires in both bin lorries and waste plants, but they do and as we use and dispose of more electronic devices these incidents are not rare.
“These fires can be challenging for fire services to deal with, have a significant impact on local communities and present a real risk to staff working on lorries and waste plants.”
Alongside the launch of the campaign, Material Focus has published research showing that batteries not removed from electricals cause more than 600 fires in refuse collection vehicles and at waste sites every year.
Material Focus’s research also found that up to 45% of householders are unaware of the fire risks stemming from the unsafe disposal of batteries, while a quarter of householders unsafely throw batteries away.
40% of householders are unaware of any information regarding how they should safely recycle their batteries, Material Focus says.
A quarter (25%) of adults say they do not know what to do with small electricals with chargeable built-in batteries, Material Focus says, rising to 34% of 18-34 year olds. Material Focus’ research conducted by market insights company Opinium in August 2021 also revealed that 52 of the 58 local authorities who responded said fires caused by batteries were “increasing”.
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