1 Jun 2016

Residents putting car batteries, gas bottles and other dangerous items in their yellow recycling bins are creating a potential fire hazard.

In April this year, 28 car batteries were found in yellow bin material collected from kerbsides and taken to the EcoSort Material Recovery Facility on Parkhouse Rd, Christchurch. On average about 40 gas bottles of varying sizes are put into recycling and end up at the centre each month.

Tania Clark, Christchurch City Council's Contract Supervisor Solid Waste, said dangerous material going into yellow wheelie bins was a serious concern. "Anything that's hazardous, such as car batteries, rechargeable laptop batteries or gas bottles, can cause a fire in the collection truck or at the plant. It's a risk for our drivers and the community, and it's a risk for staff at the EcoSort centre."

There have been two small fires in the past few months, including one that started inside a collection truck, and one at the EcoSort centre in late March that was caused by a rechargeable laptop battery.

Ms Clark said often people meant well but were not sure what was accepted in kerbside recycling. "It's surprising the things that people think they can put in their yellow bin. We've had tyres, metal manhole cover lids, lawnmowers, car gear boxes, toasters and hand saws - pretty much anything that people can fit in there."

Drivers on the recycling trucks have cameras to monitor material tipped into the truck but sometimes dangerous material slips through. Instead of putting these items into the yellow bins they should be taken to the Hazardous Waste drop-off area at EcoDrop Transfer Stations, Ms Clark said.

If people are unsure about what can and can't be recycled they can check the Council's yellow bin information. Or they can use the look up tool on the free Christchurch Wheelie Bins app.

For example, plastic supermarket checkout bags can be recycled but not the thinner plastic bags that are used to pack fruit and vegetables. Polystyrene meat packs can't be recycled but steel aerosol cans are ok. 

Ms Clark said the ideal scenario would be for people to check items can be recycled before putting them in the bin and to empty and rinse out food and milk containers (without their lids). Food left on containers goes mouldy and attracts rodents. "There's definitely room for improvement and we want to educate people about what is accepted in the recycling bin. The most important thing is to keep dangerous items out of the yellow bins to keep our staff and the community safe."

A YouTube clip of the EcoSort Material Recovery Facility gives more information about the plant.