UK Network of Specialist Facilities to Manage Hazardous End-of-Life Pressurised Cylinders

IN DEPTH: Gas Cylinder Recycling Operation from Veolia

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that pressurised gas cylinders and the shredding and baling equipment found in recycling facilities are not a good mix. To tackle the problem, Veolia has launched a new recovery and recycling service.

Gas cylinders are widely used across a range of industries.

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It doesn’t take a genius to realise that pressurised gas cylinders and the shredding and baling equipment found in recycling facilities are not a good mix. Generally, cylinders are returned by the user to the supplier, but for many reasons some fall through the net. To tackle the problem, Veolia has launched a new recovery and recycling service.

Just months ago, the WMW website featured a video showing the moment a propane gas cylinder exploded in a baler at a recycling facility at the Kent County Recycling & Education Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The cause of that explosion was just three small 1 pound (453 gram) propane cylinders. While it would take a freak set of occurrences, if you’ve seen that video, it’s not hard to imagine the consequences of a 47kg cylinder getting into a baler, shredder or incinerator.

In 2016, a scrap metal recycling company based in Sheffield, UK, was been fined for safety failings after a worker was killed when he was hit in the head by an exploding gas cylinder. A pressurised gas cylinder had been put through a shearing machine causing it to explode. A large section of the cylinder hit 55-year-old Tony Johnson in the head causing fatal injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found a number of safety failures by Walter Heselwood Limited. They had no effective health and safety management system in place and failed to adequately assess the risks involved with processing different types of scrap material. The company also failed to put in place a range of measures to reduce the risks, for example by providing a blast wall.

“Where safeguards are provided, they need to be well maintained and an assessment should be carried out to determine any additional precautions that might be required, such as a pit or blast wall,” urges HSE inspector Kirsty Storer.

In November 2016, at a ship breaking yard in Gadani, Pakistan, a major blast caused by several gas cylinder explosions on board an oil production and storage tanker beached at the facility killed at least 21 workers. More than 60 other workers were reported injured.

In short, gas cylinders must be handled with care.

One for All Service

Veolia’s new solution is backed by a network of specialised facilities across the UK which have the capacity to safely manage gas cylinders. It covers all types of cylinder arising from a range of sources including research facilities, industry, healthcare, universities and recycling centres. Nationwide collection is offered through a fleet of specialist collection vehicles, or via third party companies and hauliers.

Because gases are classified as dangerous goods, all cylinders transported must meet current regulations and codes of practice. With incorrect disposal and treatment presenting a significant risk, and mistreatment potentially leading to injury, death, or at best fines, Veolia says that the service delivers a simple solution with a national collection and guaranteed compliance.

In addition, some cylinders contain special gases that may have an impact on the environment and require particular handling and disposal processes that are also covered by the service. Before processing, technical teams review each consignment so that the contents can be carefully extracted in a controlled environment, with the resultant gases either processed through Veolia’s licensed chemical treatment facility or safely destroyed. Empty cylinders are then repatriated to the original supplier or recycled if they cannot be returned.

To support this new service, the company has invested in a dedicated facility, located at the Empire Treatment Plant in the Midlands, which safely removes and treats the contents of the cylinders to ensure full compliance with all statutory and environmental requirements.

The service adds to the company’s existing hazardous wastes capabilities ranging from aerosols and batteries to regular drum consignments and management of low-level radioactive materials. The company says that these specialist services deliver compliant hazardous waste collection and handling, as well as recycling and recovery technologies along with site registration.

“As a complete recycling and recovery solution, this new service represents a significant step forward for the treatment of pressurised gas cylinders. This in turn will help our customers safely deal with unwanted cylinders, and meet regulatory and environmental requirements,” concludes Kevin Hurst, Veolia’s chief operating officer, for industrial customers.

Typical pressurised cylinder waste that can be recycled or recovered includes:

  • Beer kegs
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Hazardous gas cylinders
  • High-pressure bottles
  • Industrial gas bottles
  • Laboratory gases
  • Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) bottles
  • Medical gas bottles
  • Non-hazardous gas cylinders
  • Non-return gas cylinders
  • Refrigerant cylinders
  • Toxic gases

Safe Handling of Gas Cylinders
The vast majority of industrial gas cylinders in circulation in the UK are the property of the main gas suppliers. They are supplied to gas users under a rental agreement, which requires the user to pay rental on the cylinder until its return. The majority of gas cylinders are re-usable and, following a safety check, they will be re-filled ready for the next customer.

However gas cylinders do turn up at waste transfer and disposal sites. The British Compressed Gases Association has produced guidance to manage the associated risks. It explains that gas supply companies have their own contractual arrangements in place for the safe disposal of gas cylinders that are no longer required.

The key points of the Guidance include:

  • NEVER open a gas valve and sniff the contents
  • Waste gas cylinders are to be segregated from other waste types
  • Authority to dispose of a gas cylinder shall be obtained from the owner of the cylinder
  • All gas cylinders should be held in a carefully controlled storage place
  • All gas cylinders received shall be inspected by a competent person.

The full Guidance is available here www.bit.ly/2p13XHq.