Regulators are consulting on new rules requiring operators storing combustible waste material to implement a fire prevention plan.
The Environment Agency (EA) has proposed changes for awarding standard environmental permits after what it considers has been an “unacceptable number” of fires at permitted sites storing or treating waste.
Under the proposals, operators storing combustible waste material must submit and implement a plan for EA approval following a fire, or if deemed necessary by the EA.
Second, MRFs and several types of household, commercial and industrial waste stations must ensure that no combustible material is stored on-site for longer than three months.
Third, operators treating waste wood for recovery will need more than the standard environmental permit if:
- Activities are carried out within 200m of a workplace or residential property
- Total tonnage of waste accepted at a site is more than 5,000 tonnes a year
The aim of the reduction in capacity is to limit the risk of spontaneous combustion and confine the consequences of a fire should one occur.
The EA said: “We have had a spate of fires at sites storing wood, and we now recognise sites above this tonnage to be unsuitable for control under standard rules.”
Wood waste operators not adhering to the rules must apply for a bespoke permit and supply additional information. The EA said it is more expensive and takes longer to issue such permits.
The proposals reflect EA guidance issued in 2013, Reducing Fire Risk at Sites Storing Combustible Materials. In 2014, after a series of fires in the industry, insurer Catlin pulled out of underwriting waste and recycling companies.