Exploding batteries cause major fire at Wigan borough recycling centre

Wigan families have been warned of the need to properly dispose of their batteries this Christmas after a huge fire at a recycling centre.

Monday, 27th December 2021, 9:12 am
Updated Monday, 27th December 2021, 9:16 am

Wigan Council’s waste and recycling partner FCC Environment had to call emergency services on Saturday Dec 4 after a fire broke out within the small domestic appliance skip at the Slag Lane Recycling Centre in Lowton.

The fire was believed to have been started by one or more damaged batteries within the container. The fire could not be extinguished by site staff despite their best efforts, so the fire service had to be called to safely put out the blaze.

The fire was burning for around two hours, but staff managed to safely contain it within a compound area, away from the public.

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The aftermath of the fire

With Christmas upon us, FCC Environment now wants to remind residents why it is vital that all electrical and battery-operated items that you no longer need are delivered to one of the three recycling centres in Wigan for responsible treatment and disposal.

FCC Environment’s Area Supervisor Tracy Roe said: “We have already had two serious fires this year and putting out clear advice for the public, it’s a shame that we have found ourselves dealing with yet another incident.

“We would call upon the public to please think before putting any electrical or battery-operated items in their household waste bins and instead use the dedicated secure storage containers at your nearest Recycling Centre or your local electrical retailer for domestic type batteries”.

When it comes to battery operated items, dead batteries thrown away with other waste and recycling, are likely to be crushed or punctured once the waste is collected and processed.

Batteries were blamed for the blaze

Some battery types, like lithium-ion (Li-ion) and nickel-metal Hydride (NiMH), can ignite or even explode when they are damaged. Once this happens, the batteries can quickly set fire to other materials present in the waste, like paper, leading to serious incidents that put lives at risk.

Although safe to use normally, powerful lithium-ion batteries are typically the most dangerous if they are not recycled properly. These batteries are often found in products like laptops, tablets, mobile phones, radio-controlled toys, Bluetooth devices, shavers, electric toothbrushes, power tools, scooters and even e-cigarettes.

Recent data shows that, between April 2019 and March 2020, lithium-ion batteries alone were thought to be responsible for more than 250 fires at ESA member waste facilities during the year – or well over a third (38 per cent) of all fires.

Coun Paul Prescott, cabinet portfolio holder for environment at Wigan council, said: “It’s really important to recycle batteries correctly and this incident is a stark reminder of what can happen if we don’t.

“We’re very grateful for the swift action of team and the local fire service which meant that a worse outcome was avoided on this occasion.

“In Wigan borough we’re proud to be kind, and while recycling batteries seems like a small act it can make a big difference in keeping our staff safe and avoiding dangerous situations.

“This Christmas, please remember to remove batteries before sending items to the recycling and dispose of them in the correct way.”

The three sites are Kirkless, Makerfield Way, Higher Ince, WN2 2PR, Slag Lane, Leigh, WA3 1BZ and Chanters Industrial Estate, Atherton, M46 9BP. They are open seven days a week, from 8am to 7.45pm in the summer and 9am to 5.45pm in the winter, except when they’re closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day.

The sites are still operating slightly differently due covid to keep both staff and the public safe.

For further information about the sites and the waste permit scheme in operation please visit wigan.gov.uk/Recycling.

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