More than 66k tonnes of waste finally cleared from Warrington docks

Waste management company Broad Environmental has completed the clear-up of more than 66,000 tonnes of waste that were illegally dumped in a storage site at Warrington docks, near to the Manchester Ship Canal.

The clear-up began some 18 months ago, following the eviction of Asset and Land Group, which had stockpiled the thousands of bales of material in two large storage units and all available space around the buildings. The company had been intending to use the Manchester Ship Canal to send the waste to Scandinavia as combustible fuel inputs for energy-from-waste plants.

Broad Environmental was appointed to clear up the waste, recovering and recycling more than 94 per cent of the materials stockpiled at the site at a total cost of more than £6 million – the process allowed the landowners to save more than £3 million in clean-up costs.

More than 66k tonnes of waste finally cleared from Warrington docks
The Warrington site before the clean-up.

The stockpiling of the waste materials also caused concern over potential waste fires, with the Environment Agency (EA) carrying out modelling suggesting that a fire at the Warrington docks would have affected transit along the Manchester Ship Canal, as well as air traffic around Manchester and Liverpool airports.

Asset and Land Group has previous when it comes to waste fires, with a fire breaking out at a waste paper storage facility in Salford owned by the company in 2014. The company was also investigated by the EA in 2013 for fires at two sites in Greater Manchester.

Speaking to the Warrington Guardian after the end of the operation, Broad Environmental Director Alistair Hilditch-Brown said: “This project was one of the largest clearances of abandoned waste seen the UK.

“We did not have any information on the contents of the bales stored on site and no information of their provenance. This meant that we had to split open every bale to ensure that the correct handling procedures were followed and material was managed in line with waste hierarchy.

“I am very happy with the way the project has been managed and the recovery rates that we have achieved. I am happy to hand the site back to the landowners so as they can look for new tenants and begin to recover the costs they have incurred in the site clearance.

“Waste crime and abandoned waste are two of the fastest growing issues throughout the UK, costing many innocent landlords and landowners millions of pounds every year – not to mention the environmental impact they can leave behind.”

While no fires broke out at the Warrington site, storing dry waste in the manner it was kept on the site poses a significant risk. Waste fires are increasingly coming under the microscope in this sector, with action being taken to mitigate against the likelihood of fires breaking out at waste storage sites.

Last year, the Chief Fire Officers Association stated that there have been approximately 250 incidents of waste fires annually over the last decade, with an estimated cost to fire and rescue services of around £16 million a year.

In response to these statistics, the Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum (WISH) published new fire and waste guidance, incorporating the results of a series of waste burn tests conducted during 2015 and 2016, which contributed to the development of understanding and knowledge of waste fires.

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