A WASTE firm has revealed batteries caused six fires in its depots last year.

Veolia, which runs waste and recycling sites in Sussex, warned people should not throw their batteries in with general waste as they can spark fires if damaged.

Lithium ion batteries found in most consumer gadgets are a particular risk as they can set alight when damaged by compactors in rubbish trucks.

Fires in waste vehicles have increased by almost 40 per cent in the past three years, Veolia said.

“Battery-induced fires are a serious and unfortunately, growing hazard that Veolia is combating,” said Allan Key, general manager of Veolia’s East Sussex operations.

“While enjoying your new electronics this year, make sure to take care when recycling your old ones.

“The average UK resident throws away around 24.5 kg of electronics every year.

“These materials, if treated properly, can be a gift to the planet, returning valuable resources back to be used again.”

Veolia chief technology officer Richard Kirkman said the firm had fitted “fire detection and suppression” across its depots to adjust to the trend.

“We have had fires in waste arising at sites and in trucks which happens from time to time, attributable to barbecues and batteries and other non-compliant wastes,” he said.

“We have had one at Hollingdean transfer station last year and at a site in Hampshire.

“We have fitted a lot more fire detection and suppression across the business to adjust to the growing problem.”

A Veolia spokeswoman said more than half of people surveyed by YouGov did not realise damaged batteries could spark fires.

“Veolia has 12 sites in East Sussex and Brighton, where we can make sure your electronics are handled in a safe and proper manner,” she said. “Removing batteries from electronic devices and placing them in special disposal containers is the key to ensure that they are safely and carefully recycled in the correct facilities.

“Leaving a battery in any device, however small, can be as hazardous as leaving a smouldering barbecue in the waste.”

In August last year a major fire raged for several hours at Veolia’s depot in Hollingdean.

It was later found the blaze was caused by a discarded barbecue.