The digitisation and growth in smart, portable, connected devices have seen the popularity spike of lithium-ion batteries to power them. The advancement in battery performance and the reduction in the cost of manufacture have seen lithium-ion batteries become commonplace in a vast range of electronic appliances. The prolific use of these powerful batteries comes with downsides however as the batteries come to the end of their lifecycle. Storage, transport and disposal of lithium-ion batteries are the highest areas of combustion risk in the battery lifecycle.
DISPOSAL FIRE HAZARD
The concerning occurrence is a global phenomenon we have to tackle at an individual and national level. One of the ways the waste industry can reduce battery fire occurrences is by pushing for a stronger nationwide effort to recycle lithium-ion batteries with approved methods. Recent research conducted by Material Focus of 58 local authorities – backed by The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee and The National Association of Waste Disposal officers – found more than 600 fires occurred in bin lorries and recycling centres as a result of lithium-ion batteries over the past 3 years. The Environmental Services Association found they were responsible for 48% of all waste fires occurring in the UK each year, costing £158m annually in damages and repairs.
CURRENT LITHIUM-ION RISKS
Lithium-ion batteries found in common electronics are not always handled sufficiently. Often these batteries are left within electronic waste dumped in general bins with the risk of chemical leakage, starting combustible fires and potentially harmful emissions. With temperatures reaching levels infrequently seen, now with more regularity, these pose a further risk of fueling fires. These outbreaks can be reduced when attention is paid to disposing of batteries correctly. Material Focus who have launched a ‘Stop Battery Fires’ campaign found among the 58 local councils, up to 45% of householders were unaware of the fire risk that batteries were wrongly disposed of, and 40% were unaware of any information on safe recycling.
But waste stemming from councils and boroughs is only the tip of the iceberg. A greater risk is posed by the commercial sector. Everything from storage to disposal poses a risk to property and concerningly, personnel. When we look at commercial waste and the significantly larger volume, variety of waste substances and process of recycling, lithium-ion batteries present a far greater threat when left unchecked. Mixed together with flammable content in storage, commercial bins and waste trucks, unintentional fires and the potential danger to life is a serious risk and should be treated as such.
With sustainability a focus on how industries need to better operate and strict compliance for how waste is managed, risk situations can have significant financial and environmental implications. That is why it is important to take proactive and preventable measures to specifically deal with lithium-ion batteries commercially and on a nationwide scale.
THE BATTERY SOLUTION
The increasing prevalence of lithium-ion battery use and dependence is needed to handle e-waste and lithium-ion batteries. There are already processes in place for residents and commercial businesses to follow, but this needs to be adhered to on a national level with greater focus. At GPT Waste, our data-led industry expertise and extensive waste management network mitigate such precarious situations from happening.
We provide sustainable disposal solutions to all sectors from healthcare, construction, chemical, commercial, trade industries and more. Our practices and waste management accreditations ensure businesses stay compliant in waste management. We’re adapted to deliver sustainable solutions that manage sensitive waste – including lithium-ion batteries – the right way.
GPT Waste offers an industry-leading, transparent and technology-backed offering to the UK waste sector. We can offer strategic reviews of your waste management requirements in order to identify environmental and cost benefits. Our approach has made us the UK’s leading independent waste management company. To speak to our expert team about your waste management requirements, call 0844 854 5000