Families have been warned of the need to properly dispose of their batteries this Christmas after a huge fire at a recycling centre near Leigh.

Waste and recycling firm FCC Environment had to call emergency services on Saturday, December 4, after a fire broke out within the small domestic appliance skip at the Slag Lane Recycling Centre, between Leigh and Lowton.

The fire was believed to have been started by one or more damaged batteries within the container. The fire could not be extinguished by site staff despite their best efforts, so the fire service had to be called to safely put out the blaze.

The fire was burning for around two hours, but staff managed to safely contain it within a compound area, away from the public.

With Christmas upon us, bosses at FCC Environment say they now want to remind residents why it is vital that all electrical and battery-operated items at are no longer needed are delivered to recycling centres for responsible treatment and disposal.

Tracy Roe, area supervisor, said: “We have already had two serious fires this year and putting out clear advice for the public, it’s a shame that we have found ourselves dealing with yet another incident.

“We would call upon the public to please think before putting any electrical or battery-operated items in their household waste bins and instead use the dedicated secure storage containers at your nearest recycling centre or your local electrical retailer for domestic type batteries”.

When it comes to battery operated items, dead batteries thrown away with other waste and recycling, are likely to be crushed or punctured once the waste is collected and processed.

Some battery types, like lithium-ion (Li-ion) and nickel-metal Hydride (NiMH), can ignite or even explode when they are damaged. Once this happens, the batteries can quickly set fire to other materials present in the waste, like paper, leading to serious incidents that put lives at risk.

Although safe to use normally, powerful lithium-ion batteries are typically the most dangerous if they are not recycled properly. These batteries are often found in products like laptops, tablets, mobile phones, radio-controlled toys, Bluetooth devices, shavers, electric toothbrushes, power tools, scooters and even e-cigarettes.

Recent data shows that, between April 2019 and March 2020, lithium-ion batteries alone were thought to be responsible for more than 250 fires at ESA member waste facilities during the year – or well over a third (38pc) of all fires.

Cllr Paul Prescott, cabinet portfolio holder for environment at Wigan Council, said: “It’s really important to recycle batteries correctly and this incident is a stark reminder of what can happen if we don’t.

“We’re very grateful for the swift action of team and the local fire service which meant that a worse outcome was avoided on this occasion.

“In this borough we’re proud to be kind, and while recycling batteries seems like a small act it can make a big difference in keeping our staff safe and avoiding dangerous situations.

“This Christmas, please remember to remove batteries before sending items to the recycling and dispose of them in the correct way.”

The company also runs the recycling centre at Chanters Industrial Estate in Atherton, M46 9BP. The Leigh and Atherton sites are open seven days a week, from 8am to 7.45pm in the summer and 9am to 5.45pm in the winter, except when they’re closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day.

The sites are still operating slightly differently due to Covid to keep both staff and the public safe.