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Campaign launched to encourage the safe disposal of baa-tteries

14 March 2024

A battery recycling campaign with a difference has been launched in Cumbria to encourage more battery recycling, with a sheep as its mascot. A staggering 3.2 million batteries are discarded in the county’s waste each year, which is equal to the weight of over 3650 Herdwick sheep!

The campaign was launched this week at our site in Hespin Woods where we were joined by Cumberland Council, Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service, Plus3K and Valpak. Batteries should never be disposed of in regular waste or recycling bins. When damaged during the transportation or treatment process, they have the potential to explode or ignite, which can lead to fires and pose serious risks to personal safety. 

The baa-ttery campaign seeks to raise awareness of the issue as well as promote the recycling of used batteries, which are commonly found in household items like toys, phones, electronic equipment and vapes. Renewi, which operates two Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) facilities in Cumbria in partnership with Cumberland and Westmorland & Furness Councils, serves c225,000 households, receiving over 110k tonnes of residual household waste per annum.

It processes and diverts household waste away from landfill and creates material suitable for energy recovery in UK cement kilns for recycling.

Nick Blake, Contract Director at Renewi, said: “We are seeing an increase in the number of fires at both MBTs in Cumbria as a direct result of batteries being placed in household bins. Disposable vapes are the latest problem, as they contain lithium batteries, which causes explosive reactions during our treatment process putting our employees and facilities at risk”.

Renewi has partnered with Reconomy brand, Valpak to issue battery boxes to the schools in order to raise awareness of the importance of battery recycling. All pupils will be asked to support the campaign by bringing their used batteries into school. When the battery boxes are full the boxes can be collected, free of charge, by calling the number on the side of the box. The full box will be collected, and a new empty box replacement will be provided. 

Hayley Slack, Community Education Liaison Officer for Renewi, explained: “Most people don’t think anything of putting a few batteries in the bin, not realising the dangers or even that they should be recycled. On average, every person throws away 6.5 batteries each year which equals over 3.2 million batteries in Cumbria alone.

 “3.2 million is a huge number of batteries but unless you can visualise the scale of the problem it means nothing. 3.2 million batteries equal the weight of over 3650 Herdwick sheep. What is more Cumbrian than a sheep to represent the scale of our problem!

“The campaign has been designed to be appealing to children, featuring a sheep as its mascot. The ‘baa-ttery boxes’ are available to all businesses and organisations across Cumbria. If you would like to support the campaign you can order a ‘baa-ttery box’ by visiting recycle-more.co.uk.” 

By highlighting the importance of battery recycling, Renewi aims to increase the number of battery recycling points across Cumbria and make it more convenient to recycle household batteries and reduce the environmental impact of battery waste.

James Armitage, Head of Procurement at Valpak, added: “When batteries are collected, they are first sorted into different types such as alkaline, lithium, mercury and zinc amongst others. The separate types are recycled to extract the different materials and precious metals, which are then used to make new products, including new batteries.

“The collection and recycling of batteries is important, as some of the materials within batteries are hazardous and can become a fire risk when not disposed of correctly. Valpak has supported the responsible management of waste batteries for a number of years through our free battery collection service, so it makes sense for us to partner with Renewi in Cumbria for this campaign."    

Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service Watch Manager, Tom Harding, also voiced his support. He said: “Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service is passionately committed to ensuring that Cumbria is a safer place for all.  To that end, we are delighted to endorse and assist with the Renewi UK Services Limited battery campaign and spread the important message of Superewe in ensuring the safe disposal of household batteries.

“The use of batteries in a wide range of household products is becoming increasingly common, especially with the emerging technologies market and the development of Lithium Ion Batteries.

“The incorrect disposal of any batteries in general household and recycling waste can lead to significant waste fires.  Prevention is therefore central in our support of this campaign.

“Further advice for fire safety in the home can be found on the Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service or by calling our freephone number 0800 358 4777.”