Collecting waste electrical equipment: Risk analysis of collection in recycling banks
Despite the ban on throwing them away, many of this waste electrical equipment contain lithium batteries. As the type of collection is an important building block in fulfilling the specified collection quotas, a total of 17 companies (including 11 public waste collection firms) got together and had the recycling bank collection examined by the bifa Umweltinstitut. Dr. Volker Zepf, Chair of Resources Strategy, University of Augsburg, and Prof. Dr. R. Goertz, Chair of Chemical Safety and Defensive Fire Safety, Bergische University Wuppertal, Retired Senior Fire Director, were involved in working up partial aspects.
To objectivise the discussions with facts for the first time in Germany, 42.1 t (equal to ~180 recycling banks) of material from the recycling bank collection were examined. The examined collected waste contained an average 0.19 % by mass of lithium batteries. Apart from the fraction of batteries, the residual electrical charge contained in the lithium batteries and their external condition was also recorded, whereby the majority were largely discharged. A small number of batteries lay loose in the collected material and was thus not additionally protected by housings.
Batteries fully enclosed by waste electrical equipment pose practically no risk. This and other information was collected and incorporated into an extensive risk analysis.
Even with the nationwide introduction of optimised recycling container systems, it is to be expected that the risk of events with corresponding consequences will remain within an acceptable area. With regard to the hazard potential there are no misgivings against the practice of collecting waste electrical equipment in recycling banks with bottom emptying.