"Bincident" warning: Uncertainty over disposal of flammable items raises fire risks

As summer approaches, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) is urging the public to avoid causing a "bincident" - a term coined to describe fires occurring in waste management processes. Many UK residents are uncertain about how to safely dispose of common domestic flammable or explosive items like used vape devices, compressed gas canisters, lighter fuel, fireworks, and old petrol.

Safly dispose of vapes - summer campaign warns of fires

This lack of knowledge contributes to hundreds of severe waste fires across the country annually.

A national YouGov poll commissioned by the ESA revealed these alarming findings. The study surveyed more than 2,000 adults and discovered that despite higher confidence levels related to safe disposal methods for items such as batteries, aerosols, and barbecue ashes, nearly a fifth of respondents admitted to incorrectly discarding batteries (19 per cent) and aerosols (18 per cent) at least once in the past year.

Of significant concern is the disposal of vape devices, with nearly 8 per cent of respondents admitting to placing these in their general waste bin. This practice contributes to the rapidly growing e-wast

e stream in the UK, with over 155,000 tonnes of electrical waste generated annually. According to data from Recycle Your Electricals, three million vapes are thrown away in the UK each week, including rechargeables and single-use devices, exacerbating this issue.

The risk of fires in waste containers, collection vehicles, and processing facilities rises during summer months due to the speed at which fires spread through drier waste material and the additional seasonal ignition sources present in the waste, such as BBQ ashes and camping gas. Every year, fire and rescue services attend at least 300 significant fires at recycling and waste management facilities across England, with many smaller incidents going unreported.

In response to these findings, the ESA has developed a comprehensive guidance document titled "Summer Fire Prevention Campaign: Supporter Guide," which provides a wealth of information and resources to help combat the issue of waste fires. The guidance document outlines the perennial risk of fires within waste containers, collection vehicles, and processing facilities, a risk that escalates during the summer months due to drier waste material and additional seasonal sources of ignition.

The ESA has produced a range of graphic social media collateral, free for use by all stakeholders interested in this issue. The campaign materials focus on the most common causes of rec

ycling and waste fires, including compressed gas, BBQ and firepit ashes, cigarette lighters and matches, batteries and electronic devices, flammable liquids, and vape devices. The guidance encourages stakeholders to share additional or alternative disposal instructions specific to their areas.

Jacob Hayler, Executive Director of the ESA, emphasised the importance of education in addressing this issue. "It is clear from YouGov’s poll results that there is still more work to be done to help householders know what to do with a range of common domestic flammable or explosive items if we are to minimise the huge damage they can cause."

As we enter the summer months, it is crucial for local authorities, manufacturers, and the waste sector to continue to educate the public about the dangers of improper disposal and the available avenues for appropriate and safe disposal of potentially dangerous waste items. The ESA's guidance document and the resources it provides are a significant step towards achieving this goal.