Last edited 17 Nov 2020


This container is filled with aluminium swarf collected at the VW-factory Brunswick, Germany.


[edit] Introduction

Swarf is the term used to describe small chips, shavings, filings or other particles of materials created through different types of machining processes. It can be made from wood, metal, plastic or other construction substances and can be created in the form of chips, tendrils, dust, mist, fragments and so on.

[edit] Dangers of swarf

Metal swarf can cause health and safety issues for several reasons.

  • Swarf particles can sometimes be sharp and projected with significant force. Flying swarf can cause injuries, particularly if it is sharp, and it can damage equipment. There are different types of personal protective equipment (PPE) recommended for those who may be exposed to swarf, including protective goggles, sleeves, aprons, gloves and safety shoes.
  • Depending on the type of material, swarf can also be a fire hazard. Under certain circumstances (particularly if it is coated with cutting oil), swarf can be highly flammable. Swarf stored in containers or piles may even spontaneously combust. In these instances, fire extinguishers suitable for the material being cut should be to hand. For example, Class A water extinguishers should be available if wood swarf is created, and Class D powder extinguishers should be nearby if metal swarf is present.

[edit] Swarf recycling

Since some types of swarf require a great period of time to break down, they can be harmful to the environment; not only damaging to agriculture, but also dangerous to wildlife. It is possible to recycle some types of swarf, including metal. It may be safer and easier to transport swarf for recycling if it is first compressed into cubes. There is specialised machinery that can convert swarf from waste material into products such as bricks.

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