Fire Incidents in Waste Management and Circular Economy The Results of Long term Monitoring and Benefits of Improved Risk Management

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The research group for Future Waste and Waste Management of the Chair of Waste Processing Technology and Waste Management (Montanuniversität Leoben, Austria) has been conducting long-term monitoring of fire incidents in the Austrian waste and recycling industry since 2016 (data since 2007). The comprehensive fire incident database created and continuously developed in this process is essential for scientific understanding of the complex interrelationships and the industry's dynamic development of fire behaviour. Furthermore, it is the basis of several profound publications and valuable evidence for assessing and evaluating high-risk areas and countermeasures. The fire incident database is mainly based on data that can be collected from public sources (e.g., fire department reports and media articles) but is increasingly supplemented by data from anonymized in-house sources of affected companies. In recent years, the strongest driver in this fire-hazardous development has been the high number of misthrows of portable batteries. It is not only in residual or household waste that these are increasingly causing incidents – all too often with the potential for a large-scale, damage-intensive fire. Other waste fractions, such as lightweight packaging or metal packaging, are also heavily affected by misdirected waste. After initial efforts to tackle this complex problem for society by intensifying public relations work on separate collection, many industry and company representatives are slowly realizing that this approach does not do justice to the problem. On the one hand, studies show that not all sections of our society are equally receptive to public relations work on the issue of public service. On the other hand, considering the increasing market shares of lithium-based battery systems, the problem cannot be considered anywhere near solved if it were theoretically possible to halve the rate of misplaced portable batteries. The article reveals new and updated results from ongoing long-term monitoring of fire incidents. Results show that the number of fires is further increasing, although reported (1) fire durations, (2) amounts of waste affected by fire, and (3) amounts of damage are slightly decreasing. The increasing amount of data also forms the basis for more varied statistical analyses in the article. Finally, the article highlights the importance of thorough risk management in waste management and circular economy.


Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2023