China’s restrictions on waste imports are causing materials to back up at recycling centres across the country and increasing the risk of fire, a recycling company specialising in waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) has warned.
Justin Greenaway, commercial manager at Sweeep Kuusakoski, spoke as the industry was hit by three large fires in the space of a few days.
He said: “Lithium batteries are becoming ever more powerful and plentiful in gadgets and appliances. China’s quality control [on imports] is causing material to back up within the recycling industry.
”Part of fire risk management is, of course, not to back up excessive volumes of waste where practical. Creating desirable high-quality raw materials from waste ensures reliable sales routes.”
He said that WEEE should not be disposed of with household waste but “a lot of WEEE is not getting into the correct containers – this is certainly a contributing factor to the amount of fires in the recycling industry”.
North Wales Fire and Rescue Service was called to 300 Recycling’s plant at Sandycroft, Deeside, where crews from 10 fire stations were needed to fight a blaze involving plastics.
The company had been warned by regulator Natural Resources Wales (NRW) last June about the quantity of material store at the site. Following an earlier fire in March, NRW served a notice requiring further information, a spokesman said.
Nick Thomas, north-east Wales operations manager for NRW, said: “We had some concerns about this site and issued a warning letter to the operators last year. This was specifically to remind them about the volume of waste they were allowed to store on-site.
”We began an investigation following a fire at the site on 9 March. That is complex and ongoing work, looking at whether the operator was storing more waste than allowed. We have also started reviewing the way we regulate this site to see if there is a better way of protecting the environment from potential harm.”
Members of the public were asked to keep away from the incident and to close all doors and windows.
300 Recycling declined to comment.
Fire crews from five locations fought a blaze at a Sims recycling facility at Neath Abbey Wharf, south Wales, where a fire that involved around 400 tonnes of mixed household waste needed two foam jets, two main jets and two on-site excavators to be extinguished.
Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said the cause had been determined as accidental. Sims had no-one available for comment.
Greenway Environmental declined to comment on a fire at its plant in Bootle, Merseyside,
- A breakthrough fire-fighting techniques discovered during the third phase of waste fire tests carried out by the Waste Industry Safety and Health group in October could enable waste sites to get fires under control before fire services arrive on the scene