A fire extinguisher is essentially a cylinder loaded with chemicals to be discharged into the environment whenever one is confronted to a fire. It is also meant to meet legal obligations with respect to a periodical maintenance, including the replacement of its fire extinguishing chemicals. The maintenance of a fire extinguisher is hence producing chemical waste.

This problem leads eventually to two approaches :

One involves actors considering exclusively biodegradability, such as determined by OECD 302B test. This is an interesting indicator, but it is incomplete as it does not take into account the impact of biodegradation on the environment.

Indeed, the message portrayed to the end user is misleading and could be summarized as such: “you are allowed to discharge chemicals from the extinguisher into the environment, because in 28 days, 99% shall be degraded”. Unfortunately, the discharge of highly biodegradable chemicals into the environment is not trivial.

For example, an exceedingly fast rate of biodegradation shall increase chemical oxygen demand (COD) as well as biological oxygen demand (BOD), resulting into depletion of oxygen in surface water and eventually production of detrimental conditions for the aquatic life.

Highly biodegradable chemical can hence be damaging to fish and aquatic organisms. Promoters of such an approach are not necessarily going to be happy with such water supplies.

Nowadays, there is mounting pressure for another more responsible approach and for a more respectful use of natural resources through recycling, whenever feasible. Paper, glass, metal, plastic materials are now regularly recycled and valorized. This approach is widely accepted and encouraged in our societies. At UNITEQ, we believe a responsible exploitation of chemistry involves the recycling of used chemicals to be replaced in the course of maintenance, to avoid incineration or damaging disposals into the environment.

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