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2019 Annual Report

Water heaters: promising trials in progress

From the beginning of the treatment process, water heaters have been treated in an open shredder. However their collection has only become significant in 2015, when new collection channels started. In 2016 we learnt from analyses that a third of the water heaters collected still contained fluorinated gases. Currently no technical solutions to treat water heaters are available in Europe due to their size, shape and composition.


In order to have a responsible recycling solution in France, ecosystem has launched a trial for a new fluorinated water heater treatment process in a specialised plant following sorting.  Only these are sent to an enclosed treatment process with gas recovery. Non-fluorinated water heaters are treated using open shredders. This industrial project started in October 2019 at a site in the South-west region of France for a period of two years.


The purpose of this project is to assume a position of change management and to develop a solution to take into account all key aspects. The trial started by only treating the tonnages collected by the site retained for this trial. Depending on progress, other outside sites could also provide sites with water heaters for the trial.


We are nevertheless awaiting validation of the technical solution proposed (yield, quality of fractions and depollution) and sorting feasibility. An environmental assessment will also be undertaken in order to evaluate the benefits of this alternative sorting technique.


Applying the precautionary principle, ecosystem may possible work with a specialised firm in risk management in order to evaluate exposure by sorting employees and recommend that suitable PPE (personal protection equipment) be worn.


Please note that the development of such a process will have an incidence on the changes in water heater eco-fees. This is why discussions are continuing with those producing this equipment.