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Gloucestershire Business News

Battery or vape caused blast and fire in Stroud recycling truck

A refuse collection team had a lucky escape when a discarded battery or e-cigarette exploded in the back of a recycling lorry and set the vehicle alight.

Workers on the truck are being praised for their quick actions to avert a more serious incident - and council chiefs have issued a warning to people not to put batteries or vapes in their bins and rubbish bags.

A council spokesperson said: "The incident occurred when a crew from Stroud District Council's waste and recycling partner, Ubico, was collecting recycling in Stonehouse earlier this month.

"After the contents of a bin had been deposited and compacted, the crew heard an explosion and saw smoke coming from the back of the truck.

"The driver immediately closed the vehicle `hopper' in order to reduce the oxygen in the space, pulled over to the side of the road and called the emergency services

"Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service attended shortly after and extinguished the fire. It is thought the cause was a discarded battery or e-cigarette."

A Ubico spokesperson said: "If it wasn't for the quick action of the crew this could have been a much more serious incident, putting the lives of the crew and members of the public at risk and causing costly damage to the truck.

"Hundreds of fires are caused by crushed or damaged batteries and gas cylinders incorrectly discarded in waste and recycling trucks and recycling centres across the UK every year."

The incident led to a delay in the collection round, and another truck had to be dispatched.

Cllr Chloe Turner, Stroud District Council's chair of environment committee, said: "Batteries, vapes and electrical items should never be put in household waste or recycling containers. They can explode and cause fires when crushed, so need to be disposed of separately.

"They can be disposed of at various locations across the district including most supermarkets, and at household waste and recycling centres.

"Use our Waste Wizard to find out how to dispose of them safely."Committee cice chair Cllr Robin Layfield added: "Up to 90% of the contents of some batteries can be reused, but only when they are recycled in the proper way. What's more, the materials that make up these batteries are really precious, and we owe it to ourselves to recycle them as much as we can.

"Over 10 tonnes of lithium were thrown out with disposable vapes in the UK last year alone, with roughly 168 million vapes being bought annually in the UK. This is equivalent to the material needed to power 10,000 electric cars.

"Batteries thrown into household waste and recycling containers are not only potential fire hazards, but they are also a huge waste of valuable resources."

Cllr Dave Norman, cabinet member at Gloucestershire County Council with responsibility for the fire and rescue service, said: "We would strongly urge residents not to dispose of batteries, vapes and electrical items in their household waste or recycling. They can explode when crushed and cause fires, putting people's safety at risk.

"The quick-thinking actions of this recycling crew prevented a more serious incident, so I would advise people to please dispose of these items safely."

Last week The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, called for the Government to ban the sale and manufacture of single use vapes by 2024. The EU has proposed a ban in 2026 and France is rolling out a ban in December 2023.

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