Report on Battery Fires in E-Waste / WEEE

It has long been known that Lithium Ion batteries can cause fires, especially the incidents involving the Galaxy Note 9. This situation is a significant issue at E-Waste or WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) facilities as described in a newly, published report.

A recent report, “Characterisation of fires caused by batteries in WEEE”, assesses the severity of the issue. It has been prepared by EuRIC and the WEEE Forum with the active contribution of experts from various organisations including the co-signatories namely  EERAEUCOBATMunicipal Waste Europe and the WEEELABEX Organisation.

In the past few months, these organisations have gathered to exchange views about this issue of growing concern in order to design measures to counter the frequent occurrence of fires.

A survey among recyclers resulted in a better understanding of the issue of fires in the WEEE management chain. It shows that the number of fires in the WEEE management chain is going up and that the fires mainly occur in mixed WEEE. Damaged batteries are seen as responsible for those fires.

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. For example, the 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.

A copy of the report “Characterisation of fires caused by batteries in WEEE” can be freely downloaded here

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