Assessment of the Frequency and Cause of Fires at Material Recovery and Scrap Recycling Facilities and Collection Vehicles

The solid waste and scrap recycling industry is tasked with managing a wide variety of waste and recycling materials.  A portion of these materials are recovered and processed at material recovery facilities (MRFs) and scrap yards.  While dealing with fires at solid waste management facilities or scrap yards is not uncommon, anecdotal evidence suggests that the rate of fires at MSW, C&D MRFs and scrap yards may be on the rise.

While some data exists on the frequency of fires at MRFs and scrap yards and with collection vehicles, there is little detail on the cause of the fire, what best management practices are used to prevent fires, and how to extinguish them.  While a number of factors could be at play, the increased use of lithium ion batteries has been suggested as a contributor to fires in recent years.  Additionally, the extent to which lithium ion batteries are disposed of and present in waste and recycling materials discarded to MRFs and scrap yards is poorly understood.

The primary objective of this effort is to compile information that summarizes the following information about fires at MRFs and scrap recycling facilities and collection vehicles:

  • Frequency of MRF and scrap recycling fires annually (i.e. % of facilities)
  • Frequency of collection vehicles fires
  • Suspected cause(s) of these fires
  • Strategies/technologies used to fight the fire
  • Damage caused by the fire (e.g. property, personnel injury/death, lost operating revenue)
  • Preventative measures taken to minimize the potential for fires
  • Likelihood for lithium ion batteries to be disposed of at MRFs or scrap yards and potential to cause a fire

If you are interested in learning more about this project, please send an e-mail to Data & Policy Program Director, Debra Kantner, at

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