Spike in garbage truck fires prompts safety warning for battery disposal

13 February 2024

Waverley Council has renewed calls for residents to dispose of household batteries correctly following a spike in lithium-ion battery related fires in our garbage trucks.

Lithium-ion batteries, commonly found in everyday appliances including mobile phones, laptops and cameras, can pose a substantial risk to our local environment, community, and employees if not handled and disposed of properly.

A rubbish truck compactor can easily damage or crush batteries, causing them to explode or catch on fire, leading to toxic, self-sustaining battery fires that can be difficult to extinguish, and can reignite hours or even days later.

The frequency of these fires is increasing each year, including in Waverley, as more consumer products become battery powered.

Batteries, including standard AAA and AA batteries used in TV remotes and toys, should not be disposed of in household bins, including in recycling bins. Options for recycling batteries correctly include:

Mayor of Waverley, Paula Masselos, said heavy metals that leech out of batteries when decomposing in landfill can over time contaminate soil and groundwater, posing severe environmental and health risks.

“Currently in Australia, only 10% of batteries are recycled, even though 95% of the materials from batteries can be extracted and used for manufacturing new products. To that end, we’re doing our bit to help households dispose of batteries the right way.”

How to handle batteries:

  1. Separate and Store: Store used batteries in a cool, dry place, preferably in a plastic or glass container. Keep them away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Use a dedicated battery storage container to reduce the risk of accidental contact with other materials.
  1. Tape your battery terminals: Battery terminals need to be taped on both ends with regular, non-conductive tape, such as clear tape, electrical tape, or duct tape. When battery terminals touch, they can spark and cause a fire.
  1. Check for damage: Before disposing of batteries, inspect them for any signs of damage – such as swelling or leaking. Damaged batteries should be placed in a plastic zip lock bag, and dropped off at a Community Recycling Centre, who should have a DG (Dangerous Goods) approved container. This will allow the batteries to be stored and transported safely.

Our next Recycle it Saturday problem waste drop-off event is on Saturday 24 February at the Alexandra Canal Depot, 67C Bourke Road, Alexandria from 9am to 3pm.

This free service is open to Waverley, City of Sydney and Woollahra residents. Items that are accepted include batteries, bicycles and scooters, e-waste, clothes and used printer cartridges. For the full list, and for more information, visit waverley.nsw.gov.au/residents/waste_and_recycling.


Media inquiries: media@waverley.nsw.gov.au or 0416 075 532.