Batteries – the hidden danger in your waste

Did you know that correct battery disposal is matter of safety? Learn why we can't take batteries in our bins.

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I recently received a letter from the WMRR’s CEO on battery disposal. I was intrigued, and it prompted me to learn more about why we can’t put batteries in the bin. We’re increasingly reliant on electronic devices and gadgets, and so batteries have become a vital part of our daily existence. From smartphones and laptops to electric vehicles and household appliances, batteries power the devices that shape our modern lives. However, did you know that the disposal of batteries is matter of safety?

Regulatory overview

In Victoria, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) classifies batteries as electronic waste, or “e-waste”. Therefore it has stringent regulations against sending them to landfills. This is not arbitrary – it’s based on the environmental and health hazards posed by these seemingly harmless power sources. According to the EPA Victoria’s official website, this classification serves as a protective measure. Most importantly, it ensures that batteries, particularly lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, are managed and disposed of safely.

The alarming rise of battery-related incidents

The importance of responsibly handling batteries becomes even more evident when you see some of the recent data on battery-related incidents. A report released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) highlights a worrying trend:

  • Fire and Rescue NSW reported 149 battery-related incidents between January 1 and September 15, 2023. This is a 16% increase from the previous year.
  • Queensland Fire and Emergency Services recorded 157 Li-ion battery fires between July 1, 2021, and January 17, 2023.
  • The WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services reported 81 incidents in 2022.

These statistics are pretty worrying, especially when you hear some of the Federal Government information. They estimate that a staggering 90% of used handheld batteries end up in landfills or are disposed of incorrectly. This careless disposal is bad for the environment and also a risk to human safety. And if you’re wondering just what this safety risk looks like – take a look at some videos on YouTube like this one.

Don’t put your batteries in the bin

Hopefully you can see why batteries should never be thrown into the bin, including our Trailer Trash bins. Instead, responsible disposal options are readily available:

  • Regular AA, AAA and other standard sized batteries can be dropped off at dedicated recycling points in major stores like Bunnings, and Officeworks. You can check out the B-cycle website for additional information.
  • Button batteries and rechargeables can also be dropped off at these locations.
  • Items like mobile phones and laptops that contain embedded batteries should be taken to e-waste recycling facilities. A simple option could be using the Mobile Muster and e-waste stations available at most OfficeWorks stores, or your local council may also provide a drop-off location.

You may have thought that listing batteries as prohibited waste for our bins was fairly arbitrary, but hopefully now you understand why it is so important. And now you’ll know that next time you hire a bin from us it’s worth taking the time to remove battery from old toys and appliances, and taking them to your local e-waste disposal point. Not only is it better for the environment, but it could save you or us from a nasty, unexpected fire in the bin.

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