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Recycling fire rise goes into reverse

The rise in the number of fires at waste sites in recent years has reversed with a fall in the number of incidents in 2012, according to official figures.

As MRW revealed earlier this month, concern has been rising in the industry about fires at recycling sites after a trend of increasing incidents with large fires and some high profile cases.

However, figures from the Environment Agency show that following a steady rise in the number of fires since 2007, last year saw a drop of almost 30%.

In 2007 there were a total of 219 fires at all types of permitted waste sites rising to 330 in 2011. This fell to 232 last year.

Most incidents were at transfer stations, with metal recycling sites also seeing some of the highest number of fires. This was followed by household waste sites and composting sites. There were also two fires at anaerobic digestion facilities in 2012.

Insurers have warned that parts of the sector could become uninsurable as anecdotal evidence suggested that the number of fires was increasing and that larger piles of stored materials was increasing the risk at sites and increasing the financial damage and size of claims when incidents occurred.

Various bodies including the EA and the Wood Recyclers’ Association are in the process of working up new guidance for storage of combustible materials to create more sector specific guidelines which could be published in the spring.

An EA spokesman told MRW: “Discussions for guidance from the Wood Recyclers Association and the Tyre Recovery Association are mainly centred around stack sizes and separation distances between them. We have said we are happy to be flexible about size limits if other measures to reduce fire risk are taken.

“We are currently reviewing WRA’s draft methodology for reducing fire risk and impact. This involves looking at ways of determining stacks sizes based around the grade of wood, fire risk reduction features on site and the sensitivity of the surrounding environment.”

The EA and SEPA is responsible for permitting sites and laying down conditions for storage of materials, while the Health and Safety Executive and the Chief Fire Officers’ Association also have regulations and guidance relating to fire risk.

Fires on permitted waste sites 2006-2012

SITE TYPE2006200720082009201020112012
Composting12271632203512
Household Waste Site59232235323923
Metal Recycling76476663667369
Transfer Station111909110412613894
Other Waste Sources00000213
Treatment17242941294316
Anaerobic Digestion0000002
Exempt Composting3101000
Exempt Spreading Recovery97671703
TOTAL287219230283290330232

Source: Environment Agency

Readers' comments (2)

  • Could 2012 being a very wet year have something do do with this? Any material stored outside is likely to have been saturated for large parts of the year.

    Do the figures show how many fires were indoors and how many were outdoors?

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  • That doesn't explain why insurance premiums are increasing.

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