Throwing dead batteries in the bin can cause fires. Don’t let your batteries turn into zombies, learn how to recycle them responsibly!

The burning issue of batteries

We will use 189 million batteries over Christmas. In fact, around 30% of all battery purchases are made in the run up to the festive season. But do you know how to recycle your batteries?

Unlike many other household items, batteries cannot be placed in either your waste or recycling bin at home. However, around a quarter of us are putting batteries in our household bins according to Material Focus – and this can have explosive consequences.

With on average one fire every day at centres in the UK, the Environmental Services Association (ESA), says too many batteries are going into either recycling bins or black rubbish bags, where they are easily damaged by sorting equipment and start to burn.

Between April 2019 and March 2020, lithium-ion batteries alone were thought to be responsible for more than 250 fires at waste sites across the UK – around 40% of all fires. In 2021 there have been several serious fires at waste sites in East Sussex which have been caused by batteries.

And with an increasing number of lithium-ion powered gadgets, toys and appliances around the home, the amount lithium-ion batteries in the UK waste stream is set to continually increase in coming years. Everyday items such as electric toothbrushes, vapes and phones all have lithium-ion batteries.

So how can we make sure we’re recycling batteries properly?

How to recycle your batteries in East Sussex

You can go to your local household waste and recycling site to dispose of your batteries. Many larger shops and supermarkets also take back dead batteries. Find where you can take your batteries for recycling here.

If you live in Wealden, Hastings, or Rother you can also dispose of your batteries and other electrical items at the kerbside. Simply place your batteries in a small carrier bag on top of your waste or recycling bin on collection day. Find out more in our article: Recycle your old electricals from home.


How to recycle vapes

With 1.3 million single-use vapes being thrown away every week, they are fast becoming one of the biggest waste streams in the UK.

However, please don’t put these items in your waste bins, as they too pose a fire risk since they contain batteries. Plus, they could be recycled!

So how do you safely dispose of your vape? Well, it depends which type you use, and where you live.

Disposable vapes, such as ELF bars, can be recycled via your kerbside small electrical service if you live in Hastings, Wealden and Rother (please note, that these should go in a separate carrier bag to any loose batteries you are reycling). If you live in areas covered by Eastbourne or Lewes councils you can recycle them at any of our household waste recycling sites.

If your vape has a detachable battery please recycle this at battery recycling services, as detailed above.

Where do your batteries end up?

Household batteries collected at the kerbside and household waste sites are bulked at waste transfer stations and then taken to a facility, where they are sent on for recycling. The batteries are sorted by type before going through mechanical treatment to crush and screen the material. The material goes through a chemical treatment process before being recycled.

The resources gained from recycling batteries are the very same materials being mined in other parts of the world.

Rechargeable batteries

The best thing for the environment is to reduce the amount that we buy and use in the first place.

While disposable batteries are cheap, they take a lot of energy and resources for such a short lifespan. To be specific, it takes 50 times more energy to make a battery than it gives during its life.

Rechargeable batteries have come along way in recent years and will last for around 700 charges! In the long term, they will save you money and be better for the environment. Plus, they can still be recycled after. If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to be more green, why not make the switch to rechargeable batteries?

What else can I recycle from home?

Find out what you can and can’t recycle from your home with our ultimate guide to recycling.

Want to know what happens to your recycling in East Sussex? Find out with our animation!

Thank you for recycling!


Article updated January 2022.