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‘At least one scrap fire every week in Germany’

There is growing concern among German metal recyclers about the rise in fires at scrap yards. Reported incidents have increased dramatically in 2019, says German steel recyclers confederation BDSV.

‘We are confronted with at least one fire every week,’ BDSV president Andreas Schwenter told Recycling International at the body’s year gathering in Münster. According to Schwenter, lithium batteries within metal scrap piles are the biggest cause of such fires. ‘We believe 80-90% of the incidents are related to these highly explosive and flammable lithium batteries.’

‘It’s a nightmare’

Karle Recycling of Stuttgart in south-west Germany is among those recycling companies to have experienced several fires in recent years. ‘It’s a nightmare, every time it happens,’ says ceo Stephan Karle.Recyclers like Karle are forced to invest a lot of money in technology and equipment to detect and fight fires. ‘The problem is that insurance companies no longer cover your operations if you have not taken enough of these safety measures,’ he says.

Meanwhile, BDSV is urging authorities and governments to produce stricter regulations to drive the separate collection of batteries to prevent them ending up in metal piles. BDSV is also working with other industry associations to improve labelling and to make it easier to remove batteries from electronics.

More on the impact of scrap fires in the 2020 January/February issue of Recycling International.

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