A RECYCLING crew was forced to tip their load into the road when it caught fire - prompting renewed concerns about out the dangers of batteries being thrown into household rubbish and recycling bins

Workers from Gateshead Council were carrying out their rounds in West Streetm Whickham when the lorry caught fire on Tuesday morning.

A council spokeperson said: "The crew were unhurt and the vehicle fortunately was not damaged but the situation could have been so much worse.

"The definite cause is not known but the fire crew reported finding a power tool battery and small batteries along with the paper, cardboard and aerosols in the load. This is becoming regular problem."

He added: "Used batteries placed into general waste or recycling bins and mixed with paper, cardboard, plastic or other recyclable materials such as cardboard can pose a risk.

"These often-unspent batteries often have some remaining charge and are referred to as ‘zombie batteries’ as they can ‘come back to life’ and pose a risk to waste facilities causing a danger to workers.

"Any batteries placed into general waste will likely be compacted or punctured during transportation to their final waste treatment facility or damaged during handling.

"When batteries are damaged they can become hot and ignite, potentially resulting in fire causing damage to premises and a risk to life.

"Batteries need to be recycled separately from other materials and can be taken back to any point of sale in a shop or supermarket (and some larger stores are now offering a take back scheme for small electrical and electronic appliances too) or both can be taken to local Household Waste Recycling Centres."

A spokesperson for the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said: "We can confirm that two appliances from Swalwell Community Fire Station and West Denton Community Fire Station were in attendance of a refuse vehicle fire at West Street in Whickham on Tuesday.

"The first appliance was on the scene at 11.15am. Firefighters extinguished the items, which were placed on the road area of the back lane where the incident took place. The crews left the scene at 11:46am."

Last month a Gateshead Council recycling lorry caught fire on the A1 forcing the crew to release the load at the side of the Western Bypass. It was believed to have been caused by a battery.

And in March, a serious fire at Gateshead's household waste and recycling centre in Wrekenton forced it to close for several days with strong suspicions it had been caused by battery or battery-powered device creating sparks.