A few weeks ago, HOBI International, Inc. reported on proposed International Fire Code (IFC), amendment F18-18, which would take aim at storage procedures for “used and off-specification li-ion batteries.” Craig Boswell, HOBI International, Inc.’s president spoke with E-Scrap News, a Resource Recycling, Inc. publication, to further discuss how problematic amendment F18-18 could be for electronic processors.
The amendment is currently in its second stage (where a final proposal will be established) after having been initially rejected during a committee vote. According to the International Code Council (ICC) the draft changes “limit the facilities where used or off specification lithium-ion batteries can be stored.” For some facilities, used batteries would need to be stored separately from other materials designated 200-square-foot-maximum rooms, which would need to be outfitted with substantial fire protective measures.
“The biggest concern has to do with the storage requirements,” said Boswell. Although the requirements vary based on the type of facility handling the batteries, the general intent is to keep used batteries separate from other materials in an effort to prevent fires. However, the guidelines make an exception for batteries with less than 30 percent charge.”
“You can imagine if you’re storing batteries for upgrades, and every time you need one you have to walk to a separate room and bring it back over, optimum workflow would be hard to achieve,” Boswell explained. “It would be counterproductive to lean manufacturing.”
Each day, fire regulation in electronic scrap facilities are gaining wider attention. Thermal events at these locations may not be a frequent occurrence, however they are well-known in the industry. Boswell noted that it’s not fun to step up and announce that you’re having fires in your facility, because there might be a perception that the facility doesn’t have enough control over its processes.
“But more and more people are realizing, it’s not because I’m doing something wrong, but the nature of processing certain types of materials in this space,” Boswell comments. “In any volume, it’s almost impossible to prevent them 100 percent.”
There are few published statistics on e-scrap facility battery fires. ITAD company Cascade Asset Management, during a U.S. EPA webinar earlier this year, described experiencing one fire for every 100,000 devices the company processed.
Boswell agreed that one “thermal event” for every 60,000 to 100,000 batteries touched is probably a good estimate. Some companies handle more than a million units with lithium-ion batteries per year. Those companies might have a dozen or more thermal events.
On Oct. 24-31, the amendment will be readdressed at the ICC’s public comment hearing in Richmond, Virginia.