Households should be banned from placing unwanted waste electrical equipment and lithium-ion batteries in roadside collection bins, the British Metal Recycling Association (BMRA) says.
It says the Government should instead instruct local councils to carry out kerbside collections where people could also discard single-use vapes.
The BMRA says the change is needed because the waste and recycling sector is witnessing an ever-increasing number of fires caused by the items.
Their warning comes days after the Mayor Of London, Sadiq Khan, outlined his concerns at surging cases being dealt with by firefighters in the capital.
In many instances, the crews found the blazes could be linked to batteries being used in e-scooters.
Antonia Grey, the Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the BMRA, said: “Householders need to be taken out of the equation as far as possible when it comes to the disposal of single use vapes and waste electrical and electronic equipment.
All lithium-ion batteries pose a risk, never more so than when they are disposed of incorrectly.
“The Government needs to introduce kerbside collections, and it needs to be done before someone is seriously injured or even killed.
“The waste and recycling sector is seeing an ever-increasing number of fires caused by waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), including single use vapes, after they’ve been put in either the recycling bin or the residual black bin. If they are damaged when being processed, a lithium-ion battery can explode, cause a fire, or even electrocution.”
A study carried out by Materials Focus found that more than 600 fires in bin lorries and recycling centres have been caused by batteries, often those hidden inside WEEE.
Separately, data from the Environmental Services Association found lithium-ion batteries were responsible for around 48% (around 200) of all waste fires occurring in the UK each year which is costing around £158m annually.
Ms Grey added: “There is currently little understanding amongst the general public as to the dangers posed by incorrectly disposing of lithium-ion batteries and WEEE containing batteries, or indeed how they should be recycled. The problem is made worse by the lack of information about recycling these items and the need for the householder to take lithium-ion batteries and WEEE containing batteries to a recycling point rather than have it collected by local authorities.”
“Serious safety concerns”
Earlier this month Sadiq Khan said he had “serious safety concerns” that some lithium-ion batteries used in privately owned e-scooters and in online conversion kits.
His warning came after the London Fire Brigade reported there had been 130 fires this year involving the batteries, 65 used by e-bikes, 24 used by e-scooters and the remainder involving those used in e-cigarettes.
Some are known to overheat when being charged.
In June, a faulty battery caused a blaze to break out on the 12th floor of a tower block in Shepherd’s Bush that needed 60 firefighters to bring under control.
In July, five people were hospitalised after a house fire in Walthamstow. Firefighters said the cause was the failure of lithium-ion batteries for a converted e-bike. The following month, four people were taken to hospital after a fire in a flat in Bow. Two jumped from a first floor window after an e-bike being charged in a hallway burst into flames.
Also in August, trains into London Bridge station had to be halted when a blaze in a railway arch being used to store a dozen battery-powered pedicabs went up in smoke.
Mr Khan said: “It’s important that Londoners understand which vehicles are safe and which might not be.
“As e-bikes and e-scooters have become more common, the London Fire Brigade has seen an increase in the number of incidents that they are attending involving lithium ion batteries from these types of vehicles. Conver- sion kits which allow people to convert a normal bike to an e-bike are the cause of many of the fires.”
Mr Khan said the items had usually been bought from online marketplaces and may not meet the correct safety standards.
“Sadiq Khan is right to be concerned about fire risks posed by lithium-ion batteries,” Ms Grey added.
“However, it is not just batteries found in conversion kits for bikes. All lithium-ion batteries pose a risk, never more so than when they are disposed of incorrectly. That’s why we also believe there needs to be a national communications campaign about the dangers of lithium-ion batteries.”