LITHIUM ion batteries such as those in mobile phones are responsible for a growing number of fires - and new rules are urgently required to safeguard the public, a leading environmental group has warned.
Experts say blazes linked to the items are worse over Christmas and New Year - especially in recycling centres and in the back of refuse collection vehicles.
That’s because so many more of us are throwing away batteries which, if not properly recycled, can start fires.
A spokesman for the Environmental Services Association told GB News: “Fires are a perennial issue for our sector because people put all sorts of flammable things out into the rubbish and in ways that they shouldn't.
"But what we are seeing at the moment specifically is that lithium ion batteries are responsible for a growing proportion of the fires we face.
"They really are quickly becoming the number one culprit. So we would urge people to absolutely please recycle all batteries.
"But particularly with lithium ion batteries, recycle them separately, using proper battery recycling banks or small waste electrical recycling banks.”
Mobile phones and other electrical devices can easily cause fires if not disposed of properly PA
Experts say that as our dependence on recharging grows, new laws will be needed to make it easier to recycle batteries in the right way.
Next year, the Government is consulting on the issue of battery regulations and that could even put slightly tougher regulations on producers of batteries to fund collection infrastructure and make it easier for people to recycle batteries.
The comments come amid an ongoing campaign by a leading recycling association which says new rules are needed now to prevent households throwing unwanted electrical equipment out with the general waste over Christmas.
The call from the British Metal Recycling Association comes as figures show waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) can be linked to three times more fires inside bin lorries and at household waste recycling centres than initially thought.
James Kelly, the CEO of the BMRA, said: "Councils need to introduce kerbside collections for discarded WEEE items. We are seeing increased fires happening in bin lorries and at household waste recycling centres as well as metal recycling sites like those of our members where these items can end up in the incorrect waste stream. People's lives are at risk."
The BMRA says the fires are often caused by damaged lithium and lithium-ion batteries inside the discarded electrical items.
There have long been fears that they cause fires, but research by the Recycle Your Electricals campaign led by Material Focus say they can now be linked to 700 fires in the past 12 months.
And Mr Kelly, whose trade association represents the £7 billion UK metal recycling sector, said the problem is particularly bad at this time of year.
"Almost two fires a day across the country can now be linked to these batteries, according to new research," Mr Kelly said.
"In the space of 10 weeks, thanks to Black Friday deals, Christmas gifts, Boxing Day sales and January sales, we are likely to see millions of electrical items discarded.
"If there is not an easy option, such as kerbside collection, it is likely that much of this will be disposed of incorrectly.
"This massively increases the risk of fires across the waste sector. That is why we need to see kerbside collections introduced right away."
Fire crews across the UK are increasingly being called to fires caused by lithium batteries PA
WEEE generally covers products that have a plug or need a battery, such as fridges, vacuum cleaners, cookers, mobile phones and computer equipment.
Discarded items may contain batteries which can cause fires if they are damaged, and they need to be treated differently to general household waste.
And with councils set to collect two million unwanted WEEE items, the BMRA say local authorities should carry out kerbside collections.
According to the results of the recent survey by Material Focus, fires caused by batteries are potentially a far bigger issue than previously reported in waste sector reports.
The survey shows that nearly 90 per cent of the 60 local authorities surveyed said fires caused by batteries are "an increasing problem".