An investigation into a major fire at the Nantycaws recycling center in Carmarthen – which caused millions of pounds in damage – concluded that there is “strong evidence” that a cell phone battery was the most likely cause.
It is believed that the lithium-ion style battery was incorrectly thrown into a blue recycling bag for curbside collection and taken to the recycling center.
The fire broke out around 3 p.m. on Saturday April 24, and firefighters rushed to the site of the materials recovery facility (MRF) of the recycling center off the A48, eight kilometers away. ‘is from Carmarthen.
The MRF was a large hangar containing 400 tons of trash, and the fire quickly sent plumes of black smoke into the air that were visible for miles.
At least eight fire engines have been dispatched, along with specialized equipment.
Nearly 24 hours later, five crews continued to fight the blaze and residents were told to close windows and doors.
The crews were present 24 hours a day for three days.
The recycling center was then forced to close to the public for five days as the cleanup and full investigation began.
Cwm Environmental Ltd, which manages the site, worked closely with Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Carmarthenshire Council and the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service in the aftermath of the blaze.
Now, six months after the fire, following the investigation, the Carmarthenshire Council has said that a lithium-ion battery in a cell phone is the likely cause and is urging people not to throw away the batteries from of any kind in blue bags or pocket bags as part of their garbage collection week.
In a statement, the Carmarthenshire Council said:
“Strong evidence suggests that a fire at the Nantycaws Recycling Center in Carmarthen last April, which caused millions of pounds in damage, may have been started by a battery that was thrown into a blue recycling bag.
“Batteries should be removed from all items that contain them, such as rechargeable items, cell phones, electric toothbrushes, toys, TV remotes, etc., and then disposed of separately at a recycling center or a local battery recycling point.
“Batteries that are difficult to remove from items can be recycled in the electrical bay of the recycling center. “
Over the past five years across the UK, fires suspected or proven to be caused by lithium-ion batteries have more than doubled to 48% in 2021 from 21% in 2016/2017.
The council said the most common inappropriate items in trash bags presented for curbside collection by residents include electrical waste such as toasters, children’s toys, hairdressing equipment, separate old batteries. ranging from standard batteries to rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and mobile devices.
Carmarthenshire Council Environment Cabinet Member Cllr Hazel Evans said: “Fortunately no one was injured in the Carmarthen Recycling Center fire.”
Advising residents, she added: “Please do not put empty batteries or objects containing batteries in your trash bags with other waste, it is extremely dangerous and the consequences can be very serious.
“All of our recycling centers have facilities to safely dispose of your batteries as well as many stores and supermarkets that have battery collection points.”
Carmarthenshire Council said batteries are initially compromised when waste collection crews unknowingly throw bags containing electrical items into garbage vehicles which are compacted, they are then transported to the MRF where they can come in contact with other materials which may have serious consequences.
Richard Vaughan-Williams, arson reduction manager at the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, added:
“Lithium-ion batteries can be found in an increasing number of consumer items and the disposal of these items has become a growing concern, especially for our partners who operate waste management facilities.
“Even small lithium-ion batteries can present a very real danger of intense fire which can then spread quickly.
“We advise those looking to dispose of batteries to carefully review the waste instructions from their local authority. “
To find out what can be put in blue and black bags, visit the Carmarthenshire Council website here.
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