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Vape fire risk behind insurance hike

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
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Vape fire risk behind insurance hike

DISPOSABLE vapes being thrown away with everyday rubbish are hitting Dumfries and Galloway Council heavily in the pocket.

The lithium-ion batteries in these small smoking devices pose an increased fire risk and there have been reports of blazes caused by them at town dumps in the UK.

As a result, insurance companies have massively hiked up the costs for providing cover to waste facilities.

The annual insurance costs for Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Lochar Moss waste mechanical biological treatment (MBT) facility skyrocketed from £468,000 to £896,000 this year.

And the excess payment, if Dumfries and Galloway Council was to make a claim, is a further £100,000.

Nith Councillor John Campbell was shocked at the huge premium the council is having to fork out, saying: “It’s disappointing to see that the insurance for this particular facility has increased so dramatically.

“Of all the time that I’ve been a councillor, I don’t think we’ve had any fire risk in that particular plant.”

Council leader Gail Macgregor said: “I think we’re all aware of the volatility of lithium-ion batteries, and it’s that within disposable vapes that are going into general waste, along with other products which have lithium ion in them that has increased the risk. At some sites across the UK there’s been some uptick in fires.

“It does raise another issue around the management of lithium-ion batteries.

“We had an incident in my ward (Annandale North) last year where an electric vehicle on a transporter ignited. And it’s very, very difficult to put out – it’s not the same as an ordinary fire.

“We had to locate a site within Annandale North where the car could literally burn for 24 hours, managed and maintained by the fire service.

“I think it’s just looking at that unintended consequence of products that maybe haven’t been so commonly used in the past that are more common now, and just looking at a strategy across the region for the management of that risk.”

Paul Garrett, the council’s head of finance and procurement, confirmed that the hazards caused by lithium-ion batteries is an area of focus for insurance companies.

He said: “It was certainly part of the discussions with the insurers when we were looking at the renewal. They did identify the increase in the use of lithium batteries as being an area of concern.

“Part of the work being done was identifying where that is present in our waste. So, it certainly is one of the contributing factors to the increase in costs that we’ve seen.”

In June this year, Mid and Upper Nithsdale Councillor Tony Berretti highlighted the fire risks caused by disposable vapes, along with the threats they cause to human health and the environment.

Mr Berretti has called for a ban on disposable vapes across Scotland.

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