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Recycling centre fires and Lithium-Ion batteries in the news again...

Recycling centre fires and Lithium-Ion batteries in the news again...

This week saw another large fire engulf a recycling centre. This time the site of the fire was at the Parr Industrial Estate on Merseyside. The blaze at the Viridor site in St Helens is thought to have broken out at around 5.40 am on a Saturday morning and is thought to have 'most likely' been caused by Lithium-Ion batteries. Another Viridor site in Dunbar suffered a fire back in January, also attributed to Lithium Ion batteries.

This was another large fire with a 30m tower of black smoke being seen for miles around, and firefighting crews continuing to battle the fire for 17 hours! The area of waste affected was around 50 x 50 metres. We have talked before on our blog about the issues of fire safety in the waste and recycling industry as fires of this nature seem to become more common.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA), the trade body representing the UK’s resource and waste management industry, reports that of the 510 fires reported by ESA members across the UK in 2017-18, a quarter (25%) were attributed to li-ion batteries, up from 20% in the previous year.

These kind of batteries are commonly found in many products, including mobile phones, toys, cameras, eCigarettes, electric tooth brushes and laptop computers. As these kinds of batteries continue to be used in an ever increasing number of products, the chances of them ending up not being correctly disposed of increases. A potential solution to the problem which has been suggested is to place an electronic tag on batteries so that waste firms can detect them if they enter the conventional waste stream. The ESA has been lobbying battery manufacturers to introduce such technology, but so far, with no success.

From an insurance perspective, more fires of this type increase the risk profile of waste businesses and has meant that some businesses, especially smaller businesses, have found it is becoming more difficult and expensive to secure insurance cover for waste and recycling facilities.

Waste and recycling centres have specific issues that make them susceptible to fire and one of the key elements to mitigating risk is active prevention. Being able to demonstrate a robust fire prevention strategy will help to reduce the risk of fire and anything which reduces risk is positive in terms of insurance.

The Environment Agency has published Fire Prevention Guidance which are designed to meet the three main objectives:

  • minimise the likelihood of a fire happening
  • aim for a fire to be extinguished within 4 hours
  • minimise the spread of fire within the site and to neighbouring sites

As specialist insurers to the industry GM Insurance Brokers are still able to offer wide ranging cover for buildings and fixed plant at Recycling centres with a number of A Rated Insurers via Lloyds of London. Get in touch with us for more information on insurance for waste sites.

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