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Batteries blamed for Hume recycling plant fire

recycling plant fire

Incorrect disposal of batteries in household recycling is believed to have caused the fire that destroyed Canberra’s recycling plant on Boxing Day last year, according to an investigation conducted by ACT Fire & Rescue.

“The investigation revealed evidence that the presence of multiple batteries of varying types, identified in the remains of the waste compacter, caused a thermal runaway which ignited the fire,” said Chris Steel, Minister for Transport and City Services.

“The ACT Fire & Rescue report specifically points the finger at lithium batteries. Lithium is found in many household batteries such as non-rechargeable AA and AAA batteries, and in rechargeable batteries in devices like laptops, mobile phones, and cameras.

“This is a timely reminder to the community not to put batteries of any kind in your household recycling bin or landfill bin. We’re asking the community to please remember, ‘don’t bin your batteries’.”

There are a number of free battery drop-off options in the ACT and NSW as part of the battery product stewardship scheme, B-cycle and at resource management centres.

B-cycle is Australia’s nationwide battery product stewardship scheme that launched in January 2022. The scheme is run by the Battery Stewardship Council (BSC) and is authorised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

It currently facilitates recycling of household batteries, and easily removable batteries including those used in power tools and cameras.

In addition to B-cycle drop-off points, batteries can be dropped off for free at the hazardous waste area at the Mitchell or Mugga Lane Resource Management Centre. Batteries taken to the Resource Management Centres will be recycled.

“There are hefty fines of up to $800 associated with incorrectly and illegally disposing of all batteries which could put workers and our community at risk,” said Steel.

In the wake of the fire, the ACT Government intends to work with the NSW Government and NSW regional councils through the Canberra Region Joint Organisation to develop a communications campaign about the safe disposal of all types of batteries at B-cycle drop off points and other locations.

Since the fire at the Materials Recovery Facility in Hume, the ACT Government has been transporting the region’s recycling to three facilities in Western Sydney and one in Victoria.

About 229 tonnes per day is being transported, which is an average of nine trucks per day.

“The stockpile of recycling material following the fire has now been entirely cleared from Mugga Resource Management Centre, with 6550 tonnes recovered and only 60 tonnes of spoil being sent to landfill,” Steel said.

“Given the recycling plant was almost completely destroyed by the fire, this recovery rate is an excellent outcome and I want to thank staff for their work to ensure materials in Canberra’s yellow bins continue to be recycled.”

An estimated additional $1.4 million so far has been required to transport the material. The ACT Government continues to liaise with its insurers, ACT Insurance Authority, in relation to the recovery of most of these additional costs.

A copy of ACT Fire & Rescue’s report into the MRF fire is located at:

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