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Waste Transfer Notes
Fire at scrap yard

Fires Caused By Batteries?

We hear stories of devastating scrap yard fires on a regular basis. Tens or even hundreds of tonnes of scrap can be burned. Recently fire crews battled for three hours to bring a fire under control at a Kidderminster yard. A yard in Bury was on fire earlier in the year and two 12 year old children have been arrested for allegedly starting a fire at a yard in Rochdale. There are countless other examples. Often the cause is unknown but a recent report suggests that WEEE could be the culprit in up to 75% of the fires. The report states that the fires mainly occur in mixed WEEE and damaged batteries are seen as responsible for those fires.

“Battery fires are one of the most important issue impacting recyclers currently” says Emmanuel Katrakis, Secretary General at EuRIC, the European Recycling Industries’ Confederation. “This fact-based report confirms that fires occur at every stage of the collection and treatment of WEEE, but we see a higher prevalence during treatment and at the logistics and pre-treatment stages during storage”, the survey tells us that for most fires, there is a high prevalence of frequent yet small thermal events that cause no or little damage. The most severe fires identified by respondents were mostly described as intense fires and lasting between 1 to 6 hours. More than a third of the respondents reports one of those severe fires. The report roughly estimates the average costs associated to most frequent fires in €190,000, and €1.3 million for most severe fires. 

The report includes a set of recommendations to further investigate some aspects that were addressed in the survey, but for which an in-depth analysis is key to have a better grasp of the issue. This includes for instance consequences for the reuse sector, the efficiency of the rules concerning the international carriage of dangerous goods by road (ADR), or the detailed cost breakdown of damages caused by battery fires.

“This report provides a set of facts and figures”, says Pascal Leroy, Director General at the WEEE Forum, the international voice of e-waste producer responsibility organisations. “It was extremely important to carry out that work collectively in a Roundtable, gathering the most relevant representative organisations in order to develop a shared understanding of the issues of concern. A follow-up report will analyse best practices to tackle fires associated with batteries”, he added.

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