Batteries that have been incorrectly disposed of will come back to life when damaged, and they result in disastrous fires every month in homes and during waste management.
Since the start of 2020, rescue departments have registered 20 fires caused by zombie batteries, i.e. mishandled chargeable and non-chargeable batteries. However, this figure does not include the numerous close calls where the rescue departments’ help was not needed.
Waste management operators and the authorities are worried that the problem will become worse without swift action, because the number of lithium-ion batteries is estimated to increase up to 14-fold by 2030. For example in the UK, the number of fires caused by zombie batteries during waste management rose by 25 per cent within a year.
Batteries into their own receptacles after use
Everyone can prevent batteries from coming back to life by handling them according to the instructions, taping the battery terminals after use and placing them in appropriate recycling containers, located in shops that sell batteries and municipal collection centres for hazardous waste.
‘Batteries are transported from the collection centres to undergo a safe recycling process, which allows up to 90 per cent of the raw materials to be reused,’ says Liisa-Marie Stenbäck from Paristokierrätys.
Impacts increase likelihood of fires
A zombie battery is a dead chargeable or non-chargeable lithium-ion battery that comes back to life and begins to bulge, heat up or emit a weird noise due to an impact, for example. They have caused fires in private homes and during waste management. A typical case involves a Li-ion battery that has been deposited into a container intended for general waste or used electrical equipment and electronics, and has become damaged due to an impact, causing a fire that is difficult to put out.
‘It takes large amounts of water to put out a Li-ion battery fire. These fires also release toxic gases, which can create strong flames. Moreover, burning battery fragments can also become airborne,’ says Senior Officer Karoliina Meurman from the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes).
Expert organisations of the sector have put together useful instructions on what to do in case of a dangerous situation, located on the Zombie Battery campaign website, zombiakku.fi (in Finnish and Swedish).
About the Zombie Battery campaign
The Zombie Battery campaign is a joint effort of the sector’s expert organisations to promote the safe recycling of batteries. It is run by producer associations Recser (Paristokierrätys), SERTY, ERP Finland and Elker (represents producer associations SELT and ICT Producer Co-operative), as well as public waste management representative Suomen Kiertovoima KIVO, the Finnish Environmental Industries (YTP), the Finnish Scrap Dealers’ Federation, the Finnish Commerce Federation, the Finnish Grocery Trade Association (PTY) and Finance Finland.
The campaign is funded by STEK, a centre for promoting electrical engineering and energy efficiency. Additionally, the campaign partners include the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency and the Finnish National Rescue Association (SPEK).
Liisa-Marie Stenbäck, Recser Oy (Paristokierrätys), tel. 010 249 1704, email: liisa-marie.stenback(a)recser.fi.