A pilot project is taking place across Merseyside with an aim to help prevent fires at WEEE recycling facilities.
The initiative has been named SAFeRWEEE and is a collaboration between waste companies, Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority and Mersey Fire and Rescue Service. The project is aimed at improving the handling of lithium ion batteries.
Li Ion batteries are the rechargeable batteries found in a large number of household electronic products, items such as mobile phones, electric tools or cameras, for example.
Accidents from these types of batteries are rare when they are handled by consumers, but when they are being treated as waste, there can be a risk of fire if the battery becomes punctured or damaged during transport or processing.
This creates a risk of the battery igniting other flammable materials, such as combustible waste, and consequently Li-Ion batteries have increasingly been linked to fires at waste sites in recent months, particularly at WEEE recycling sites.
As part of the pilot project, which will be rolled out at three Merseyside HWRCs from this summer, householders will be asked to segregate WEEE into three streams: items not containing batteries; batteries removed from items; and, items where batteries cannot be removed.
Householders will be required to remove batteries from items before disposing of them, where possible.
By separating lithium ion batteries from products, it is hoped that fire risks can be minimised and ensure that the batteries are correctly handled, treated and recycled – rather than posing a fire risk when passing through small WEEE processing equipment.
Trials will take place at the three HWRCs over the summer and results will be shared in December. It is hoped that the protocol could form the basis of a voluntary collection protocol for the country.
Pat Gibbons, station manager – Community Fire Protection, Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service recognises the potential fire risks posed by the presence of lithium ion batteries in small mixed WEEE, and is a major issue facing the waste sector and Fire & Rescue Services today.
“Waste fires can have a devastating impact on businesses, they can see operational activity reduce dramatically, they can cause huge disruption to local residents and have a significant environmental impact.
“Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service therefore welcomes the SAFeRWEEE project in its aims to develop practical methods for reducing the likelihood and frequency of these waste fires and looks forward to supporting the project throughout its lifetime.”