Waste industry has an average of one fire a day

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment, Richard Benyon, has revealed that in the years 2001-12 the average rate of fires at waste and recycling works came in at ‘just under’ one per day.

Benyon revealed the Environment Agency statistics for fires at waste management sites between 2001 and 2012, after being asked by Derek Twigg MP whether the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had figures on the frequency of waste site fires.

Twigg’s question followed major blazes at JL Sorting Johnson’s Lane site in Widnes that lasted for weeks, and a recent fire at a Jayplas facility in Birmingham involving 100,000 tonnes of plastic, believed to have been started by a Chinese lantern.

2011 was worst year for fires in the past decade

According to the statistics, 2001 was the best year recorded with 246 fires, whilst 2011 was the worst with 425 fires investigated by the Environment Agency.

The average for the 12 years was 335 fires per year, which means that statistically a fire takes place every 0.92 days at an English recycling or waste management facility.

Benyon told Twigg that figures included regulated and unregulated sites where the cause of pollution is clearly identified as fire. He stated that it is also possible that some fires may have led to multiple pollution incidents, which could have caused duplication of data.

Fire at Scotgen's energy from waste plant


The statistics are timely, as yesterday morning (18 July) firefighters from Dumfries and Galloway were joined by colleagues from South Lanarkshire and Carlisle to battle a blaze at an energy from waste plant near Dumfries, Scotland.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) sent more than 30 firefighters to fight the fire at Scotgen’s Dargarvel Stores energy-from-waste plant on Lockerbie road, which began shortly after 8am, with additional assistance from Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service. It is thought nobody was in the building at the time of the fire.

An SFRS spokesperson said: “We received a number of 999 calls from the public reporting thick smoke emanating from the roof of an industrial building on Lockerbie Road.

“Operations Control mobilised two appliances from Dumfries and the crews arrived to find a well-developed fire had taken hold of property.

“The fire has now been surrounded and ground monitors are in place as crews continue operations, which are likely to be on-going for some time.”

Inspector Claire Walker from Police Scotland has said that there is no suspicion of arson: "There is no danger to the public at this time. The fire service is currently dealing with the blaze and it appears it is household waste which is burning. There's nothing to suggest that the fire is suspicious at this time."

Scotgen’s was the first Scottish plant of its kind when it opened in 2009. The plant uses a combination of pyrolysis and gasification to treat up to 20,000 tonnes of waste per year.

The company has had a series of misfortunes in recent times, after the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) issued Scotgen with an enforcement notice, following an admission that its energy-from-waste plant at Dargavel in Dumfries had breached safety limits by emitting more cancer-causing dioxins than permitted in October 2012. It has been ordered to restrict operations, and ensure that monitoring results are provided 'as soon as possible'.

Scotgen is also under investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following a "pipe burst" at the Dargavel plant in August last year which damaged nearby pipework and a roof. 

The company could not be reached for comment.