Resource Use

Calls for tighter regulations on recycling plants to reduce fires

A Northamptonshire County Councillor has called for tighter regulation and planning controls for recycling plants, following a number of large fires across the county.

Calls for firmer regulations on recycling plants to reduce fires

Northamptonshire County Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage, who has responsibility for the county’s fire and rescue service, spoke to BBC Radio Northampton this morning (23 July) as part of its feature on recycling site fires.

According to information garnered from a Freedom of Information request by BBC Radio Northampton, there have been more than 40 fires at recycling centres in the county over the past five years.

And even as the calls were being made this morning, two more fires were burning at waste management sites near Bristol and Manchester.

Gonzalez de Savage told the radio station that part of the problem is that existing procedures are not always followed at sites. Speaking to Stuart Linnell on this morning’s Breakfast Show, he said: “[Fires] are really a huge drawn-out resource. Over the last three years we’ve had some quite significant ones.

“They are a major issue. They cause damage to the premises, they cause damage to the environment locally and people are not able to go about their day-to-day lives without the effects of smoke, and the pollution really affects them.

“Control over these centres, in terms of the planning decisions that are made and the conditions that are placed upon those who recycle, needs to be tighter.

“Those businesses who do that really ought to be thinking in terms of fire prevention and certainly sprinkler systems and other areas in terms of compartments should be utilised further.”

His comments were backed by members of the fire service, which sent around 80 firefighters to stem a large blaze Recycle Force’s waste facility in Corby last Saturday (18 July).

The fire broke out in a building containing one of the company’s material recycling facilities (MRFs) and reportedly involved hundreds of tonnes of waste and recycling.

Mick Conlon, Group Commander for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue, told the radio programme: “We’ve had over ten fire appliances dealing with [the Corby incident] over the first few days and we’re going to continue to be there for a few more days yet just damping down. So it has a big impact on us as a fire service.

“Guidance goes a long way to enforcing the Fire Safety Order, which is already out there, but we would like to see more controls and sprinklers to try and control the fires in their early stages.”

He added that in 2011, a fire at a waste recycling plant at Blackbridge Farm in Burton Latimer took a month of constant spraying to fully extinguish, using what firefighters estimate was two million litres of water.

Fires at SUEZ and Viridor sites

The calls come as firefighters elsewhere in the country tackle yet more blazes at waste management sites.

A fire broke out in a warehouse waste compactor at SUEZ environnement’s Merebank Road MRF in Avonmouth, near Bristol, this morning (23 July), requiring the evacuation of 31 staff.

More than 55 firefighters and 11 fire engines and support vehicles were called to the site to bring the blaze under control.

The fire has now been extinguished at the facility, which sorts and bales around 80,000 tonnes dry mixed recycling per year, such as tins, plastic bottles, cardboard and paper.

Deliveries to the MRF were suspended for the day, while members of the public living or working near the site were asked to close doors and windows due to the spreading smoke plume.

A statement issued by the Recycling and Recovery UK division of SUEZ environnement (formerly SITA UK) said that nobody was hurt in the fire, which broke out at around 6.00am this morning.

An investigation into the cause of the fire was launched earlier today.

Also this morning, a fire started at Viridor’s Bayley Street Transfer Loading Station in Tameside, Greater Manchester.

Workers reported the fire within residual and bulky waste at the facility at around 5.30am today. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service attended the site and the fire is now under control.

Jennifer Baker, Communications Manager at Viridor, said: “The fire was under control within one hour of being reported and the recycling centre on the same site was re-opened from 10.25.

“With the site managing non-hazardous domestic and trade waste, there was no risk to public health.”

Viridor’s UK compliance team is now undertaking a review to establish the cause of the fire.

Read more about guidance for waste operators to reduce fire risks.

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