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“Explosion in a child’s bedroom: smartphone battery bursts into flames.” This was a headline in a north German newspaper just a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, such headlines can be read all too often. Articles regularly appear containing alarming information about car parks, flats, refuse collection trucks, bins and even sorting plants that have gone up in flames. The reason: carelessly discarded batteries. The damage caused by these fires is immense.
Images – some of them disturbing – have now been published to make people aware of this huge problem: members of the BDE [Federal Association of the German Waste Management Industry] have launched an awareness campaign called “Brennpunkt: Batterie” [Hotspot: battery]. It is targeted at consumers as it is obvious that many end users are still completely unaware that these batteries are a major fire hazard. The images used for the campaign, therefore, focus on the people who are most at risk from carelessly discarded batteries: namely, the people working at sorting plants and on the refuse collection trucks.
To reach as many people as possible, the campaign has made a short film highlighting this problem, created a dedicated website containing useful information about how to ensure batteries are disposed of and recycled properly and set up its own social media presence. What’s more, warning stickers should be placed on as many bins as possible across the whole of Germany. At the moment, many of these batteries are not being taken to the battery collection points at retailers or household waste recycling centres but are being thrown into residual waste, paper or recycling bins – either due to a lack of knowledge or simply due to carelessness.
Find out more about the campaign at brennpunkt-batterie.de
The legislation is, in fact, very clear: consumers must hand in their old batteries and electrical appliances to either a household waste recycling centre or a retailer. Despite this being set out in law, the majority of these batteries are still ending up in residual waste bins. This not only poses a fire hazard: the metal contained in the batteries cannot be recovered and reused either as household waste is sent to incineration plants. With natural resources becoming ever scarcer, this is bad for the environment and bad for the economy.
The campaign, which is targeted at consumers, was launched by BDE President Peter Kurth (right), Holger Kuhlmann (left), Managing Director REDUX Recycling GmbH, and Michael Thews, German MP and spokesman for the circular economy in the SPD parliamentary group
Clearer instructions are needed: the current regulations are obviously not enough to change the way consumers discard their high-risk batteries. The waste management industry is, therefore, calling for a deposit return scheme to be introduced: consumers should pay a deposit of 50 euros when they buy an appliance that contains a battery with a voltage of nine volts or more. This does not include mobile phone batteries but it should be enough to make consumers aware of the issue. It is now up to the legislator: German environmental politicians are currently discussing this idea in the Bundestag.
If devices should self-combust, then special containers can reduce heat generation and ensure the gases are released in a controlled manner. As a result, large fires can be prevented and employees better protected. REMONDIS’ RETRON division already offers safe storage and transport solutions. Its special containers, for example, are perfect for storing small devices at household waste recycling centres.
Find out more at retron.world/en