A crushed lithium ion battery is thought to have caused this massive blaze at a recycling centre in Guernsey A crushed lithium ion battery is thought to have caused this massive blaze at a recycling centre in Guernsey

A major change in how people dispose of old lithium ion batteries is needed to reduce the chances of them catching fire. 

A project is underway to trial a new way of doing this, sparked by a series of high profile blazes at recycling centres – and one of the biggest was on the Channel island of Guernsey in August 2018. 

According to the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management the SAFeRWEEE project is a joint scheme between waste operators and fire chiefs to improve the handling of lithium ion batteries at the end of life. 

Lithium ion batteries are used to power countless electronic products ranging from toys to mobile phones and laptops. 

If they are crushed or punctured it can spark a chain reaction called thermal runaway which will set both the battery and the device on fire which can quickly spread. 

Now project partners Axion Consulting, Viridor, Veolia, S Norton, Wastecare and Mersey Fire are devising an effective, safe and commercially viable way to minimise the risks. 

In short, people will be asked to segregate small mixed waste electrical and electronic equipment three ways before disposing of them at Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs). The three ways will be items not containing batteries; batteries removed from items; and items where batteries cannot be removed. People will be required to remove batteries from items before disposing of them. 

By separating lithium ion batteries from products it’s hoped that fire risks can be minimised and ensure the batteries are correctly handled, treated and recycled. 

Trials will take place at three HWRCs over the summer and the results will be shared in December. If the scheme works well it’s hoped the protocol could form the basis of a new voluntary collection protocol for the country. 

Axion Group spokesman Richard McKinlay said: “The risk of fire from handling lithium ion batteries is a huge challenge for the waste sector. Extracting the batteries at the recycling facility before processing would be incredibly challenging and so this project aims to remove them altogether from small waste electrical and electronic equipment.” 

Pat Gibbons from Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, said: “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.” 

For more on this story go to https://ciwm-journal.co.uk/fire-risks-from-lithium-ion-batteries-targeted-in-new-waste-project/ 

This project shows just how potentially dangerous crushed lithium batteries can be which is why on passenger planes cabin crew warn passengers to alert them if they lose their mobile phones down their seats. The danger is if they shift them the seat mechanism can crush the mobile phone, causing it to catch fire.

When that happens more than 65 airline companies now carry AvSax fire containment bags to deal with the problem. More than 13,500 AvSax are now on planes worldwide and have been used in action 28 times since the start of 2017.