A battery that was disposed of incorrectly was likely the cause of a fire which has closed the Whanganui Resource Recovery Centre for the last four days.
The fire occurred at OJI Fibre Solutions at the Maria Pl centre around 11.15am on Friday.
Initially, the centre’s deposit slots for newspaper, mixed paper and cardboard were closed, but on Saturday the centre was closed to all drop-offs and remained closed on Sunday and Monday.
Whanganui Resource Recovery Centre board chairman Ken Mair said the centre had been closed to allow Fire & Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) personnel to conduct a proper investigation into what caused the fire.
Whanganui Fire Station manager Shane Dudley said a specialist fire investigator had been on-site on Friday to attempt to determine the cause of the fire, and suspected the blaze was caused by an incorrectly recycled product.
“We’re picking its most likely [a] battery that’s gone in there with the recycling,” he said.
OJI manufactures pulp, paper and wood fibre-based packaging, and also provides recycling services.
Dudley said it was likely the battery was crushed in the presses the facility uses to recycle products, which caused it to ignite the flammable material around it.
“It’s a good reminder to let people know to keep the recycling for the recycling - we just want cardboard in there so this thing can be avoided,” he said.
Earlier in the year, Whanganui District Council, Fenz, insurance providers and waste disposal companies urged care when disposing of lithium-ion batteries.
Fenz said lithium-ion batteries should not be placed into household waste or recycling bins, as they can cause fires during waste collection, transportation and processing.
Undamaged batteries can be safely disposed of at battery recycling drop-off points, and it was recommended battery terminals be taped over before being placed into battery recycling collection bins.
Domestic batteries, both alkaline and rechargeable, and car batteries can be dropped off at the Whanganui Resource Recovery Centre, but not with general recycling material.
Dudley said the OJI building sustained moderate damage as a result of the fire.
Mair said the centre board held a meeting on Monday afternoon to determine when they will be back open, but the outcome was not known at the time of edition.
“We’re basically putting a plan in place, obviously, to make sure everything’s sorted - including, of course, the whole issue around the opening of the resource centre,” he said.
Finn Williams is a multimedia journalist for the Whanganui Chronicle. He joined the Chronicle in early 2022 and regularly covers stories about business, events and emergencies. He also enjoys writing opinion columns on whatever interests him.