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A fast response by staff at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Te Rapa prevented a fire from spreading from a battery that had been placed into a recycling bin.

The MRF is where Hamilton City’s mixed kerbside recycling is taken to be sorted, separated and baled before sent to recycling facilities.

The small fire, which occurred Tuesday 26 July, was found to be caused by a lithium ion battery, the type used in hand held vacuum cleaners.

Smoke and small flames were spotted by a staff member in the tipping bay, where recycling is unloaded from collection trucks, and within 90 seconds, the team had extinguished the small fire and the battery separated before the flames had time to spread.

Trent Fowles, Hamilton City Council Transitional Rubbish and Recycling Manager said that while the fire was contained quickly, another could have been devastating.

“Batteries, full or partially full oil containers and gas cannisters contaminating recycling bins, are the leading cause of fires in collection trucks and at the MRF, putting people and property at risk. Nothing flammable should ever be placed into a recycling bin,” Fowles said.

“While there are processes in place at the MRF such as heat sensors to help identify heat spots or fires early, this can be avoided if residents keep flammable items out of their recycling bin.”

Fowles says unfortunately this isn’t an isolated event as recycling is often contaminated with flammable and hazardous items and other non-recyclables such as used nappies, food waste, bottle lids and clothing.

“Please remember your recycling is sorted by real people and it’s not acceptable to put them at risk,” he said.

“Hazardous or flammable items, such as batteries and gas canisters can be disposed of for free at the Refuse Transfer Station.”

Bin inspectors regularly check recycling bins on the kerbside for contamination to help avoid unrecyclable items making it to the MRF. They can tag between 70-100 bins a day. Tags indicate the type of contamination and the resident is asked to remove it before the next collection date.     

If you are unsure about what can be recycled, use the sorter on Fight the Landfill, contact our Customer Services team on 07 838 6699 or message us on Facebook.


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