Waste and recycling industry seeing 93% increase in facility fires in first 4 months of 2018
Lithium-ion batteries, warm-dry weather and larger stockpiles of recyclables are among reasons cited
Why are we seeing a spike in fires In 2018?
This is a question that I do not have the answer to. I have been reporting on waste and recycling facility fires since February, 2015 and I am witnessing the monthly data unfold along with the rest of you. March's number of 37 fire incidents is not only one of the highest figures on record but is more than the number of fires that occurred in both March of 2016 and 2017 combined. March 2018 could merely be an anomaly. But then comes April. April's number of 36 fire incidents is not only one of the highest months on record as well, it is also more than the number of fires that occurred in both April of 2016 and 2017 combined.
My gut is telling me that there are a number of factors that are contributing to this increase, be it an onslaught of lithium-ion batteries in our waste stream, the increased material stock in our facilities due to China's recycling restrictions, warmer/drier than usual weather from previous years, or an increase in the public's awareness of these fire incidents. Along with my thoughts on what factors are causing the fire incidents we are facing, I will also discuss the things we can do to alleviate the problem, including basic housekeeping, public education/respect, and of course the use of fire protection technology, such as that provided by Fire Rover. See below for a video on how the system is working for a ReCommunity recycling facility in Michigan.
The scope of the fire problem:
In the past 12 months, we have seen 347 unique reported waste and recycling facility fire incidents in the US & Canada. When you factor in my extremely conservative assumptions that we are under-reporting waste and recycling facility fires by about 5:1, we are looking at a reasonable number of fire incidents in the US and Canada at 1700+.
In the same time period (May 2016-Apr 2017) we encountered 277 waste and recycling facility fire incidents in the US and Canada. Using the Environmental Research & Educations Foundations data, EREF's Municipal Solid Waste In The US, published in 2016: In 2013 there were 3,913 recycling facilities and 81 WtE facilities. That would equate to 40% of Waste & Recycling Facilities have had a "Fire Incident" in the past 12 months, increasing from the 30% I had shared at WasteExpo in 2017. I realize this number might seem high to some, but when put in the context of Rumpke's reporting, which is highlighted below, of 12 fires in 2017 reported in just two of their facilities, you can see the numbers start to add up quickly.
Why are we seeing this trend, and what can be done about it?
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Ryan Fogelman is VP Business Development, Fire Rover LLC.