Recycling centre fires graphically show the danger of lithium batteries

Recycling centres are in danger of suffering huge fires caused by lithium batteries … and in Germany batteries are sparking at least one fire a week in its recycling plants.

The warning comes after a spate of blazes in Germany and two highly publicised fires at recycling plants in the UK and the USA.

Online publication Recycling International reports that there is at least one fire a week in German recycling centres. Andreas Schwenter, president of the German steel recyclers confederation BDSV, said: “We believe 80-90% of the incidents are related to these highly explosive and flammable batteries.”

In the most recent incident in late November a blaze which damaged a centre in the city of Urbana, Illinois, is believed to have originated from a box of batteries on a storage shelf.

A crushed lithium ion battery caused a massive blaze at a recycling centre in the UK in August 2018.

The huge fire at the Guernsey Recycling site on the Channel island of Guernsey took 13 hours to douse and is believed to have started when a mechanical claw crushed a lithium battery.

Lithium-ion batteries, which are commonly used in mobile devices such as mobile phones and laptops, can catch fire if they’re damaged, the battery terminals are short-circuited or cheap chargers are used to power them up.

The two recycling plant incidents show just how potentially dangerous crushed lithium batteries can be which is why on passenger planes cabin crew now 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 many airlines have AvSax fire containment bags which are now on more than 15,373 aircraft operated by 75 airline companies across the world and have been used 31 times to deal with emergencies since the start of 2017. AvSax won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the UK in 2018.