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Cambridge City Council

Bin lorry fire caused by batteries placed in wheelie bin

6 October 2022

Residents are being reminded of the importance of disposing of batteries responsibly and correctly, after a fire in the back of a Greater Cambridge Shared Waste bin lorry.

This happened today (Thursday 6 October) in the morning on Cambridge Road, between King’s Hedges Road and the A14. The fire involved a refuse collection vehicle that was collecting black bin (non-recyclable) waste.

The cause of the fire is believed to have been batteries which placed inside a black wheelie bin. When batteries are put into a wheelie bin, there is a danger they can split when mixed and compacted with other waste or recycling in the back of the collection lorry – which can cause a fire.

The correct way to dispose of all types of portable household battery (for example, Li-ion, AA, C, D, button, laptop) is to put them inside a small plastic bag and attach that bag to the handle of your blue bin for kerbside collection.

There are also collection points in all major retailers that sell batteries. For example, supermarkets and electrical shops.

As is part of the usual safety procedure for an event like this, the waste in the back of the back of the vehicle was decanted onto the road to help contain the fire. The road was cleaned up as soon as possible after the fire.

Head of Greater Cambridge Shared Waste, Bode Esan, said: “We’re grateful to Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service and Cambridgeshire Police for their quick response to this fire. I’m pleased that nobody was hurt but this is a reminder about why it is so important batteries aren’t put inside wheelie bins. They can cause fires like this in our collection vehicles. Used batteries should instead be put in a clear plastic bag which can be tied to the handle of your blue bin, if disposed of at home instead of battery collection points. Even if they don’t cause a fire in one of our vehicles, which can put it out of action for some time and disrupt our collections, batteries put inside wheelie bins will end-up in landfill. Once there, they will leak out toxic chemicals which can be harmful to people and wildlife.

“I’d also encourage residents to consider buying rechargeable batteries as modern ones hold their charge much better than was previously the case and can be charged more quickly.”

Greater Cambridge Shared Waste is a partnership between South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridge City Councils. It collects recycling and rubbish from around 127,000 households.