The service of fire extinguisher disposal, fire-extinguishing powder disposal, and fire-fighting equipment disposal must be provided by companies that specialise in the disposal of these specific wastes and that are properly regulated and certified to do so.

This type of waste can be handled by the end customer, but normally it is the maintenance provider that bears this responsibility. As our customers are well aware, a portable fire extinguisher, according to current law, cannot be used after its 18th year in service. There are a number of procedures required by law to dispose of a fire extinguisher, as these devices must be handled with proper care.

Let us review the main rules:

The first step is the assignment of the EWC code, which classifies the various types of waste in conformity with the directives issued by the EC. Waste is therefore separated into: non-hazardous and hazardous waste, depending on the type of waste to be classified.

The second step is to look for a company qualified to dispose of waste in accordance with the regulations in force. The concept of shared responsibility, which is based on the principle of the accountability and cooperation of everyone involved, in whatever capacity, in the waste management cycle, compels all parties to ensure proper management. Therefore, the producer of the waste cannot just hand it over to anyone, but must give it to an entity that is authorised to handle that particular type of waste.

How is the EWC code formed?

In the specific case of fire-fighting equipment, EWC codes are to be checked among the following:

Hazardous EWC codes are denoted by an asterisk, followed by six digits, and their hazardousness is determined by product classification or, if not available, by laboratory analysis.

160304Inorganic wastes other than those mentioned in 160303 – wheeled and non-wheeled dry powder extinguishers –
160306Inorganic wastes other than those mentioned in 160305 – wheeled and non-wheeled foam fire extinguishers –
160504*Gases in pressurised containers (including halons) containing dangerous substances – wheeled and non-wheeled halon fire extinguishers –
160505Gases in pressurised containers other than those mentioned in 160504 – wheeled and non-wheeled CO2 fire extinguishers –
160509Chemical wastes other than those mentioned in 160506, 160507, and 160508 – dry powders from fire extinguishers
170203Plastics – pipes, tubes, and hoses –
1704201Plastics – pipes, tubes, and hoses –
170604Insulating materials other than those mentioned in 170601 and 170603 – fire doors –
170405Iron and steel – empty fire extinguisher

How to proceed with disposal

After the EWC code has been assigned, the waste must be managed. Regulations require that fire extinguisher recovery and disposal operations resulting from the maintenance or replacement of fire-fighting equipment must be carried out by specialised and legally authorised companies.

Italian Decree Law no. 152/2006 and the Ministerial Decree of 07/01/2005 require the removal and disposal of fire-extinguishing agents as well as the metal and plastic components of a fire extinguisher.

The specialised company must ensure that it handles the entire procedure in the best possible way, in compliance with environmental and human health laws. Incorrect handling, in fact, also carries criminal as well as financial liability.

The waste can be managed either by the customer or by the maintenance provider: a private individual can decide to hand over the fire-fighting equipment to authorised third parties, while a maintenance provider that takes charge of it can store it temporarily at their own facility.

In the case of hazardous waste, transportable quantities may not exceed 30 kg or 30 litres per day. Fire-fighting equipment may be kept temporarily by the maintenance provider for a maximum of 10 days, within which time it must be entered in the loading/unloading log or in the SISTRI (Italian waste traceability control system) chronological register.

A portable fire extinguisher may not be used after its 18th year in service. However, this is not a sufficient condition to consider this equipment as waste.

The maintenance provider must be the one to declare the fire extinguisher as non-compliant, making explicit the intention and obligation to dispose of it because the device can no longer be used.

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