Households across the UK have been urged not to throw away old batteries in waste bins - after a surge in cases of fires at waste and recycling plants nationwide.

While it might appear that dead batteries are harmless after use - experts have warned they run the risk of causing fires at recycling centres, after getting punctured and leaking hazardous waste during processing.

The new national Take Charge campaign, which has been jointly founded the UK’s largest recycling and waste management companies, is now urging people not to bin what it describes as "zombie batteries" - in other word, 'dead' used batteries that can still go on to cause trouble. 

So how can you dispose of old batteries safely? We've put together everything you need to know.

'Surge in fires at recycling centres due to zombie batteries'

New figures released by the Environmental Services Association (ESA) on October 26 revealed that lithium-ion batteries were the suspected cause of 38 per cent of fires at waste treatment plants between April 2019 and March 2020.

This equates to lithium-ion batteries potentially causing around 250 fires a year.

Earlier this year, recycling and waste disposal service company Veolia, which provides services to more than 25 local authorities across the UK, said fires in waste centres had risen by 37.5 per cent since 2017.

How to dispose of batteries safely

ESA executive director, Jacob Hayler, said: “Fires caused by carelessly discarded batteries endanger lives, cause millions of pounds of damage, and disrupt waste services.

“We urge consumers to please recycle batteries responsibly by using battery recycling points in shops and recycling centres, or a separate battery kerbside collection if available.”

The Take Charge website has more information about where to recycle batteries responsibly nearest to you.

Used batteries can be sent for recycling by placing them into collection containers found at many results outlets and public buildings across the country.

Battery recycling laws came into force in February 2010, and now most shops and supermarkets that sell batteries have to have collection bins in-store for used batteries. You can also find them in some town halls, libraries and schools.

These boxes will then be taken by compliance schemes, such as Valpak, which takes the batteries away to be recycled.

Sorting your batteries can help the recycling process. This is because batteries are made from different chemistries.

Different types of batteries include lithium-ion - which are commonly used for laptops - zinc (which is used in AA batteries), and nickel cadmium batteries, which are used for power tools.

You can also recycle batteries at many Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs). Type your postcode into the recycle-more recycling locator to find where you can recy