South Cambridgeshire Logo
My South Cambs:
Sign in or register

News release from: 30/05/2024

Never bin batteries or vapes

Never bin batteries or vapes

Residents of Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire are being reminded to dispose of batteries safely and responsibly – after seven fires involving bin lorries so far this year.

Lithium-ion batteries found in mobile phones, vapes, and power packs on electric bikes or scooters have all caused fires in the back of local bin lorries since January – disrupting collection rounds and putting crews and the public in danger. This has included recent fires that have broken out in the back of trucks in Great Shelford, near Rose Crescent in the centre of Cambridge and on the edge of Orchard Park / King’s Hedges.

When batteries are put into a wheelie bin, they can go on to get crushed or damaged in bin lorries, which can cause explosions and trigger fires.

Greater Cambridge Shared Waste – a partnership between Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District councils – is now reminding residents to ensure they dispose of batteries correctly.

  • Vapes should be taken back to vape shops or to the large Household Recycling Centres, like those at Milton or Thriplow, for recycling.
  • Larger batteries – such as e-bike batteries, those from a mobile phone, laptop batteries or those that are attached to a device – must also be taken to a Household Recycling Centre.
  • Small household batteries can be put in a small plastic bag, tied shut and left on top of any of your wheelie bins (green, black, or blue) on collection day. Most small common household portable batteries can be placed in that plastic bag for collection at the kerbside, including AA and AAA, C and D and button cells. These used batteries are then recycled.
  • Residents of flats with shared bins should not leave small household batteries on these but instead, can take them to one of the many public battery collection points at corner shop chains, supermarkets, chemists, and petrol stations as well as those at recycling points and Household Recycling Centres. Visit to see all locations.

Head of Greater Cambridge Shared Waste, Bode Esan, said: “We’re seeing an increasing number of fires in the back of our trucks, and most are caused by batteries being put into wheelie bins. The compacting process in the back of bin lorries can easily crush and split batteries – which go on to ignite or even cause an explosion. Whenever a fire breaks out in the back of one of our trucks, our crews are put in danger as they must rapidly find a safe place to unload the recycling or waste to stop the fire engulfing the lorry. Any member of the public around the vehicle is of course also put at risk. We’re hugely grateful to Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue for their prompt assistance on many recent occasions but we should all do our bit to prevent them being needed. Small household batteries are easy to recycle at home: they can be put in a small plastic bag, tied shut and left on the top of any of your household wheelie bins on collection day. You can also drop off batteries for recycling at supermarkets and other big shops. Larger batteries, like e-bike batteries, should be taken to the large Household Recycling Centres – where vapes should also be taken for recycling.”

Station Commander Gareth Boyd from Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service added: “We wholeheartedly support the message to dispose of batteries safely and not throw in household bins. We are seeing an increase across the county of fires in waste collection trucks and these fires can be easily prevented by residents and businesses disposing of batteries correctly and separately from household waste. If our crews are attending these fires, it will delay us attending a house fire or other emergency where someone’s life could be in danger.”

Greater Cambridge Shared Waste collects recycling and rubbish from around 131,000 households across the city of Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire.

To find out more about how to correctly recycle batteries, visit the Council's website.