Waste fires – in other words fires that occur in waste or recycling plants - is a very serious global issue. Countries all over the world are suffering from more than one fire per day in the waste and recycling industry. This causes risk of injury to employees, damage to sites and machinery, and damage to reputation. And that’s even before you consider the potential environmental impact. There’s more irony here too – one of the biggest risks for fire in a waste facility is damaged lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are rechargeable and thus designed to be more sustainable!
What causes waste fires?
As the human race creates more and more waste, recycling has become crucial in the fight for sustainability. Numerous recycling plants are built to deal with all kinds of materials, turning them into something useable again.
Many of these materials are combustible – paper and cardboard, for example. The materials are also compressed together in order to save space. A dry, hot spell of weather can also add a rise in heat within this pile. All these conditions combine to make a potentially combustible situation – all is needed is a spark.
This is an example of what’s known in the industry as ‘scalding’. Heat can build up unchecked in places that cannot be seen or monitored in traditional ways. In the middle of a waste pile, for example. There’s also no smoke to be seen here, since it’s shielded by outer layers of the waste.