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Call for material-specific guidance to prevent waste fires

Waste industry experts have reached an agreement with fire services that there is no “one size fits all” regulatory measure to prevent fires in the sector.

The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) held a discussion at the ‘Fire Futures Forum on Waste Management and Recycling Fires’ with waste industry members, Defra, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Environment Agency (EA).

Industry representatives welcomed the Environment Agency’s (EA) technical guidance note on preventing fires, published in November, but some members called for specific guidance to deal with each individual waste stream or material.

Peter Butt, executive director of the Wood Recycler’s Association (WRA), told MRW that one set of guidance cannot cater for cardboard, wood, plastic and several other materials simultaneously.

He said that specific guidance for the storage of waste wood, produced jointly by the WRA, Fire and Rescue Service and the EA, was ready for publication but had been put on hold following a huge fire in June at a recycling depot in Smethwick run by J & A Young (Leicester) Ltd.

He added that the EA supported the guidance as it would be a template for other sectors to follow.

The meeting also heard the number of waste fires is actually dropping and the number of serious fires is flatlining.

Both the EA and Butt welcomed the attendance of members of the insurance industry at the forum.

Butt said: “It is harder to find affordable insurance for waste sites currently, so the guidance must be agreed with the insurance industry.”

An EA spokesperson told MRW: “We want to see the waste industry lead the development of best practice guidance for preventing and mitigating the impact of waste fires.

“Such guidance includes the planned development of a general code of practice for the waste industry to be produced by the WISH Working Group and specific sector codes, such as the draft Wood Industry Code of Practice.”

Roy Wilsher, CFOA operations director said: “This issue is not just about the industry or the fire service - we all have to work together on this, and we are here to find and implement solutions.”

CFOA will now be working with industry and stakeholders to produce a post forum report in early 2014.

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