The advantages of embracing fire extinguisher recycling

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Toria Jones, head of marketing at CheckFire, delves into the importance of fire extinguisher recycling within the fire trade

In fire safety, the responsibility to protect lives and property extends beyond the immediate response to emergencies.

Now more than ever, it encompasses a broader commitment to sustainable practices wherever feasible.

Fire extinguishers play a pivotal role in the array of crucial components within fire safety equipment, and while the urgency of their deployment and effectiveness in putting out fires is a top priority, recycling the unit after its lifecycle has come to an end is also important.

Therefore it’s necessary to raise awareness of the recyclability of fire extinguishers in the industry, as it makes for procedural efficiency and holds importance for environmental sustainability and corporate responsibility.

The proper handling, storage, emptying, disposal, and recycling of fire extinguishers forms a complex operation, particularly considering the distinct procedures required for different types of fire extinguishers.

Fire extinguishers, like all manufactured goods, have a finite lifespan, with components and extinguishing agents subject to degradation over time and accidental damage causing units to become ineffective – hence the BS 5306-3: 2017 regulations that stipulate their regular maintenance and servicing.

It’s worth reminding that fire extinguishers that are overdue their service may be compromised in terms of their effectiveness in combating fires.

But once serviced, if it’s deemed the unit should be replaced, there may be environmental risks if it’s disposed of improperly.

Therefore, it’s essential for the fire trade to be aware of when a fire extinguisher is coming to the end of its life and to recognise the importance of recycling units afterwards.

When do fire extinguishers need replacing?

The lifespan of a fire extinguisher is limited, determined by the result of its service and maintenance.

An annual service is required, followed by a five-year extended service for water, foam and powder fire extinguishers.

CO2 fire extinguishers, meanwhile, must be refurbished or replaced every 10 years.

Regular risk assessments are essential to identify signs of damage or expiration, ensuring the effectiveness of fire extinguishers in emergencies.

When the time comes, the unit must be serviced by a qualified engineer, who’ll conduct a detailed inspection of the fire extinguishers.

From here, depending on the findings of the extended service, the engineer will dictate whether the fire extinguisher is to be refilled or replaced.

Dispose or recycle: Making responsible choices

When the time comes for replacement, the disposal of these units can present a challenge.

Fire extinguishers must not be discarded into bins as this not only poses environmental risks but also disregards the opportunity for recycling.

Recycling fire extinguishers entails proper handling to prevent accidents, storage to avoid environmental contamination, emptying to remove residual agents, and disposal in compliance with regulations.

Trained professionals equipped with expertise in fire extinguisher recycling are essential for executing these tasks effectively.

The environmental benefits of fire extinguisher recycling are manifold.

Pressurised containers, if crushed improperly, can be hazardous.

Whereas, recycling mitigates these risks while reducing carbon emissions and minimising pollution.

Such measures are vital for preserving ecosystems and safeguarding wildlife.

The significance of responsible fire extinguisher recycling extends beyond environmental considerations.

It highlights a broader commitment to sustainable practices within the fire trade.

By embracing recycling, organisations can demonstrate their dedication to minimising their environmental footprint and contributing to a greener future.

Through recycling, all physical elements of the fire extinguisher can be reused, ensuring no waste.

In fact, part of CheckFire’s recycling service ships the recyclable materials overseas to support infrastructure in India.

How fire extinguisher recycling works at CheckFire

At CheckFire, we recycle between 25,000 to 30,000 fire extinguishers per month.

Most standard fire extinguishers can be safely recycled, especially if they have a steel body.

We recycle fire extinguishers, including water, foam, powder, CO2 and wet chemical, and fire extinguisher cardboard packaging too.

Each element of a unit is recycled and used again in various ways, across a range of industries.

This will ensure total safety and compliance while giving peace of mind that no damage is done to the environment.

Our service works in the following way:

Collecting and unloading

Our customers can arrange for us to collect fire extinguishers or drop off units at any of our depot sites – making it accessible to all.

We make sure that vehicles are unloaded safely, with engines off.

It’s also important that all units have suitable safety pins in place before handling or moving.

We have strict protocols in place to ensure safety at all times, including a requirement that all scrap fire extinguishers, both pressurised and unpressurised, are pinned and tagged before being collected or dropped at the facility.

Processing and sorting

Our recycling team processes requests and prepares for sorting according to the type of fire extinguisher.

Any unit identified as potentially unsafe for normal discharge will be moved to a quarantine area for further examination.

Dismantling and recycling

Once authorised, unit dismantling begins, including the removal of safety pins, seals, handles, and valves.

Everything from steel to brass to plastic is placed in the material’s corresponding collection tanks and then passed to specialist processors for recycling.

Enhancing awareness in the sector

Raising awareness about the importance of fire extinguisher recycling is essential for fostering widespread adoption.

It’s highly encouraged that organisations seek out fire extinguisher recycling services and find out more information about the process, including how it works and the benefits it entails.

By understanding the logistics and participating in fire extinguisher recycling, organisations can take proactive steps towards incorporating responsible disposal practices into their fire safety protocols.

This approach not only promotes environmental sustainability but also ensures compliance with regulatory standards and demonstrates corporate responsibility.

By embracing responsible disposal practices and recycling initiatives, organisations can mitigate environmental risks and reduce carbon emissions.

Through collaboration, education, and innovation, the fire trade can lead the way towards a greener future, where fire safety and environmental responsibility go hand in hand.

This article was originally published in the May 2024 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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