’Lithium-ion batteries can cause explosive fires if they get damaged,’ says product safety manager

Insurers could be facing more fire claims this Christmas as fewer parents will check toys for lithium batteries before disposing of them.

That was according to Zurich Municipal, which highlighted in a statement today (8 December 2023) that 21% of 1,000 parents will throw old toys away in the household waste to make way for new ones.

However, fewer than 38% will check them for lithium batteries before throwing them out.

A range of toys contain these power sources, such as remote control cars, helicopter drones and other gadgets that require rechargeable power.

Zurich said that while these devices are generally safe, the batteries within them could potentially spark fires if damaged.

“Never throw away batteries along with your everyday household rubbish or recycling,” Stephen Curtler, product safety manager at Electrical Safety First, added.

“Lithium-ion batteries can cause explosive fires if they get damaged.

“This means putting items that contain these batteries in your regular waste or recycling bins could endanger people’s lives – even if their power’s been fully used up.

“Always take them to household waste recycling centres, eWaste collection points or battery recycling drop-off locations.”

Bin lorry fires

The warning came after freedom of information data obtained by Zurich Municipal this year found that the number of bin lorries hit by blazes leapt 62% in the last two years.

And fire crews in the UK were called to 125 fires in 2022, up from 77 in 2020.

“Over recent years we’ve seen an increase in fires caused by batteries in bins, whether this is batteries sparking fires in bin lorries or at waste centre sites,” Alix Bedford, a risk expert at Zurich Municipal, said.

“It can be easy to forget that some toys contain batteries especially if they are old and are no longer working.

“If you want to be on the nice list this year, remember to check old toys for batteries and dispose of them correctly – perhaps in the designated battery bins in supermarkets when doing your Christmas food shop.”