Rubbish truck fires from lithium batteries on the rise

Publish Date : 21 May 2024
Rubbish Fire OA

Nine recycling and rubbish trucks have caught fire in Auckland in the first three months of the year compared with 13 for the whole of last year.

Three of the nine council trucks were so badly damaged they had to be taken off the road for repairs.

Auckland Council GM Waste Solutions Parul Sood says these fires pose a risk to the public as well as truck drivers, and the main culprits are most likely lithium batteries, disposable vapes and other electrical items placed in kerbside collection bins.

“When a fire sparks in the back of a truck, drivers must act fast to follow safety protocols, which often involves them ejecting the load onto the road for Fire and Emergency New Zealand to extinguish. While drivers are given training to ensure their and others, safety they are still unnecessarily being put in extreme danger.

“Rubbish truck fires also inconvenience Aucklanders, because the road gets cordoned off while the fire is extinguished and the waste is safely removed, causing major hold-ups,” adds Ms Sood.

“Having up to 8-cubic metres of rubbish or recycling dumped in the street poses risks to people and the environment, and these fires are entirely preventable. We urge all residents to dispose of hazardous waste the right way by checking on the Auckland Council website.”                             

Fire and Emergency New Zealand Risk Reduction and Investigations Manager, Peter Gallagher, says people might not be aware of the serious risks that some household items pose.

“Correct disposal is essential for any hazardous items and that includes any battery-powered or electrical device.

“We encourage people to do the right thing and dispose of these items correctly to keep themselves and everyone else safe.”

The types of hazardous items that cannot be placed in rubbish or recycling bins include vapes, car batteries, electric scooters, jumpstart packs, aerosols – paint and butane canisters, gas bottles – and lithium batteries and devices containing these batteries.

Lithium batteries can be found in a range of household items, such as laptops, mobile phones, hearing aids, power tools, power banks, rechargeable batteries and disposable vapes.

During the compaction process in the truck, lithium batteries can rupture or short causing it to ignite.

For guidance on where to dispose of these items safely and in many cases, for free, visit

Local community recycling centres may accept some items for a fee. Often items can be disassembled by specialists for components to be reused or reconditioned.

Vapes can be recycled through most shops that sell them or through

Bunnings also offers a free battery take-back service. For more information on its national battery recycling programme, visit

Selected Mitre 10 stores also offer a battery take-back service, including car batteries.

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