Police investigate arson at illegal Staffordshire recycling centre

Police and fire services in Stoke-on-Trent are investigating a fire that began in the early hours of Sunday morning (5 February) at an illegal plastics recycling centre, citing the cause of the fire as arson.

Police investigate arson at illegal Staffordshire recycling centre
Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service was alerted at 8:21 a.m. on Sunday that a fire had broken out at Hanbury Plastics Recycling Centre in Milton, Stoke-on-Trent. No one was on site at the time of the fire but plumes of smoke could be seen from 25 miles away.

Over 50 firefighters from Hanley, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Longton worked to tackle the blaze between Sunday and Wednesday. They were unable to enter the building, used to house recycled plastics, as the roof had fallen in, so employed an aerial ladder platform to douse the flames from above. Water was pumped in from a nearby canal to help with the operation, as large amounts were needed to bring the blaze under control.

The fire was still alight yesterday (8 February), with two engines on site, but an investigation into the cause has been able to start, and Fire Investigation Officer Ian Broadhead says that arson is suspected: “We have worked closely with Staffordshire Police during the investigation and concluded that the fire was started deliberately. The service will now be helping police with their investigation and further inquiries.”

Hanbury Plastics Recycling was launched in 2011 to process mixed plastics waste streams. However, according to the Environment Agency (EA), the recycling centre had never obtained an environmental permit and thus was operating illegally. The EA has also stated that it issued legal notices to the company to clear up to 10,000 tonnes of waste plastic, with around 1,500 tonnes on site at the time of the fire.

The agency is now working to stop pollution as a result of the fire from reaching any watercourses. A spokesman said: “Our officers have returned to the site to check for any environmental impacts and we are continuing to divert all firewater to prevent any pollution to local ‎watercourses. We are continuing to put emergency measures in place to mitigate fire risks and limit any impact on the environment.”

Stoke City Council have declared the fire as a low risk to public health, but have advised locals to keep windows and doors shut.