The problem is not as uncommon as some people may think and because of the safety-first culture we live in, one case could lead to organisations which install units on a large scale replacing en masse.
Such sites that could be affected by incidents include large office complexes, student halls of residence and hotel and apartment blocks.
Waste solutions provider Reco-Vie has encountered a number of incidents and officials at the company are currently researching the issue and its implications.
Surrey-based Reco-Vie technical director Mark Hadley said: We obviously live in a safety first culture, meaning that if there was an incident, it could be felt that the safest way to deal with the situation would be to replace all fridges. This means around 1,000 units may need to be taken out and recycled from one site.
Hadley is a published environmental expert and has been looking into the subject in some detail.
It is quite interesting. I had been asked to look into a case where someone claimed that their fridge had exploded. I found this hard to believe at first as the older ones are CFC-based which is inert and the newer ones contain just 100 grams of pentane.
But after seeing photos of the scene after a domestic fridge blew up, finding another case in a flat and talking to the London Fire Brigade, I realised that cases are not quite as isolated as some people may think, he added.
A new client of the company also mentioned a case of an ammonia-based mini bar which blew up and Hadley has been looking into the possibilities with a foremost expert in the field.
Suggested explanations are that leakages containing pentane could be ignited due to a spark or a short of the fridge.
But as Hadley investigates the reasons, cases arising on sites using a large number of units could provide WEEE recyclers with a sizeable and unlikely source of business.