BMRA urges members to take ‘active steps’ to tackle fires

The British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) has published an open letter to its members warning of “an increasing number of fires” within the sector.

The BMRA says an "increasing number" of fires in the metals recycling sector are caused by Li-ion batteries or WEEE containing batteries (picture: South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue)

The BMRA represents more than 280 businesses within the UK’s £7 billion metal recycling sector.

In a letter dated yesterday (4 July), James Kelly, the BMRA’s chief executive, said “many” of the fires within the sector were caused by lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries or waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) containing batteries.

“This is a significant health and safety issue,” Mr Kelly wrote. “These fires pose a real risk to your employees, contractors, visitors to your site and those people on other metal recycling sites.

“I greatly fear it is only a matter of time before we suffer a fatality in the industry.”

Mr Kelly urged the BMRA’s members to take “active steps” to ensure every load sold was free from Li-ion batteries or “incidental items of WEEE-containing batteries”.

Otherwise, Mr Kelly warned, operators could face “onerous sanctions” from the National Fire Chiefs Council and the Environment Agency, amongst whom fires in the waste industry is “an increasing topic of concern”.

Mr Kelly added: “In addition, these incidents will increase insurance premiums dramatically and, in some cases, this may render some companies uninsurable.”

‘Clean-up’

James Kelly is the BMRA’s chief executive

To help the sector stamp out fires, Mr Kelly asked the BMRA’s members not to include Li-ion batteries, combustible material in furnace-ready scrap or frag feed mixed with heavy melting steel (HMS) 1 or 2 in any of their loads.

The BMRA has identified these three elements, Mr Kelly said, as the “most likely” sources of fire in a scrap yard.

“To prevent risk of injury, death and harm to the environment, we need to clean-up the supply chain and greatly reduce the risk of fires occurring in scrap metal piles,” Mr Kelly said.

Batteries

The incorrect disposal of batteries is seen as one of the most common cause of fires within the waste sector.

In October 2020, the Environmental Services Association, the trade association representing the UK’s private waste sector, launched ‘Take Charge’, a campaign aimed at consumers in a bid to tackle the growing number of fires caused by batteries that have been thrown away (see letsrecycle.com story).

A report published by the WEEE Forum compliance scheme association and EuRIC, the confederation representing the interests of the European recycling industries at EU level, in July 2021 concluded there was no “magic formula” that would eradicate the risk of fires caused by WEEE containing batteries (see letsrecycle.com story).

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