Battery safety

There are three main areas of concern when dealing with batteries:

  • Environmental protection
  • Risk of fire
  • Risk to children

There is also a risk of acid burns from lead acid batteries if they are incorrectly handled.

Environmental protection
Some batteries contain lead, mercury, and cadmium. These are heavy metals that are ecotoxic and if released into the environment can pass through ecosystems and food chains.  The effect of mercury on the natural environment is well known.

Risk of fire
With the advent of lithium batteries, which are able to source high currents, fires have been reported due to overheating during charging, and also as a result of physical damage.  In the domestic market it has affected mobile phones, laptops, and hover boards.  This has also affected commercial products such as bus passenger ticket readers and camera equipment.

There have been a number of recalls of batteries both in New Zealand and overseas.

Risk to children
The main risk to humans is the risk of children swallowing the smaller button cells.  This risk can be eliminated by keeping new and used cells out of reach of children at all times.

Further information


Australian house fire sparks call for stricter rules for lithium-ion batteries | Stuff8 May 2016
After an e-bike battery may have caused a Sydney house fire, consumer groups want action.

Christchurch’s burning issue: Battery-sparked fires in waste CCC Newsline

Christchurch’s burning issue: Battery-sparked fires in waste CCC Newsline13 May 2019
A 12-month battery collection trial is under way in Christchurch amid rising concerns over battery-sparked fires in wheelie bin collection trucks and at processing facilities.


Flyers warned not to put loose batteries in checked-in bags from January 1 | Stuff23 December 2020
The new rules allow up to 20 loose batteries of any type to be brought in carry-on baggage, and “must be protected by being in their original retail packaging, or an individual…

Industry report: a partnership to beat battery fires? | Recycling International

Industry report: a partnership to beat battery fires? | Recycling International20 July 2021
There is no ‘magic formula’ to eliminate the risk of fires caused by lithium-ion batteries, the WEEE Forum says in its latest report.


Oamaru waste pile fire possibly started by battery | Stuff14 September 2021
A fire at a refuse transfer station on the outskirts of Oamaru was possibly caused by a lithium-ion battery in a waste pile.

Last updated: September 15, 2021 at 8:18 am