It is believed a garbage truck fire at Lake Macquarie last month was sparked by a laptop battery which had been carelessly tossed out.
Once the blaze had been dealt with, NSW Fire & Rescue crews found the charred remains of the laptop which had been concealed in a cardboard box and suspect it ignited when compacted inside the truck.
The incident follows a similar occurrence last year at Blacksmiths, which was one of 180 that firefighters responded to statewide, up from just 16 in 2021.
Council’s Waste Operations Coordinator Kieran Peter said it is happening with increasing regularity.
“We’ve had instances where fires have broken out in the trucks and community members have helped our staff manage fires with garden hoses while waiting for emergency services,” he said.
“This is a very real threat to safety for our staff, vehicles, locals and their properties.”
Even used batteries that end up in landfill are at risk of igniting, with lithium-ion batteries alone responsible for a significant percentage of fires at waste management facilities.
An average of three to four fires a week are being reported in NSW as a result of batteries in waste and recycling trucks, recycling centres, transfer stations, landfills and scrap metal recycling yards.
Manager Waste Services Paul Collins said a rise in lithium-ion powered products had contributed to an increase in battery fires.
“Ten times as many e-bikes and e-scooters are being sold now compared to six years ago, so there are far more rechargeable and lithium-ion batteries in circulation,” he said.
“When these batteries reach the end of their life or become damaged, people often mistakenly think it’s okay to throw them away in the garbage or recycling bin.”
The latest local incident has prompted an appeal by Lake Macquarie Council for residents to stop throwing lithium-ion and other household batteries in general waste headed for landfill and instead make use of the free drop-off point at the Awaba Recycling Centre or one of the many B-Cycle bins across the region.
“We’re calling on all Lake Mac residents to take charge of their battery waste by taking it to appropriate drop-off facilities for recycling, which helps protect our drivers, vehicles and the wider community,” Mr Collins said.