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Final round of fire tests begins in Essex

Darnall Recycling fire

A third phase of tests is underway as part of an industry-wide collaboration to reduce the impact and cost of fires at waste sites.

The first fire under the latest trials was carried out on a Cory landfill site in Barling, Essex, on 20 January. They are due to be completed at the end of March, with updated guidance available in the late summer.

The Barling trials include setting fires alight inside concrete walls to measure the heat flow, while individual stacks of 3cu m bales of waste will be burned to study gas flows.

The work is being co-ordinated by the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) forum on behalf of Defra and the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA).

The testing is being carried out by the London Fire Brigade on behalf of the CFOA while Cory is providing the site. Other waste management companies are involved, such as Shanks which is providing refuse-derived fuel for the trials, while the Environment Agency (EA) is monitoring results and sampling the gas.

The first phase of testing was at the end of 2014 on samples of a dozen types of recycled materials. The data fed into later tests, including full-scale trials on wood stacks near Selby in Yorkshire in November 2015, ironically delayed by a major fire nearby.

WISH chair Chris Jones praised the collective effort.

“I can honestly say, I have never, ever, in the 28 years I have been in the industry, experienced a collaboration like it,” he told MRW. “Despite all the public arguments there are between members of the industry and the EA about fire guidance and stack sizes, they have actually been able, perhaps with a little coaxing, to put all that aside and collaborate on the science – and that helps all of us.”

He describes the work in the trials as ground-breaking science that would result in some “profoundly practical answers”, particularly about the behaviour in a fire of specific materials such as plastics and wood.

The EA has proposed a shake-up of fire safety regulations, currently part of a consultation which closes on 4 March.

The agency is reviewing its fire prevention plan guidance, and proposals would affect separation distances and pile sizes, both contentious issues within the industry, for a range of materials.

  • More on the fire tests and other aspects of public protection and health and safety in the next issue of MRW.

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