The number of fires at waste management sites has remained constantly high.
Statistics for the past 10 years, supplied by the Environment Agency, have averaged, more or less, a fire every day.
While figures for 2012 had come down from 2011 to 96 fires at regulated waste transfer stations and 247 fires at all regulated sites, the trend has not continued downwards. In 2013 there were 106 and 254 fires for the corresponding categories.
(Waste transfer stations are a sub-set of “all regulated waste sites,” which also include composting sites, metal recycling and vehicle dismantling facilities, other treatment sites and landfills).
While this is not a big rise, the scale and profile of major fires in the waste management and recycling industries has certainly increased for a number of years. Indeed, the 2013 figures disclosure was prompted by a question posed in Parliament for Dan Rogerson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – a sign of the scale of the problem.
The Waste4Fuel recycling plant in St Paul’s Cray, south east London, for instance, created a notable reaction. In just two years it has had 11 fires, which have required 550 fire engines being called out, nearly 2,000 hours of firefighters’ time expended at a cost of £560,000 of taxpayers money.
While an extreme case, nevertheless the particularly angry and unequivocal response from interested parties was notable. Local MPs and residents expressed anger and opposition to Waste4Fuel continuing to operate.
Indeed, it pushed the Chairman of London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority to write to the Environment Agency to exert pressure on it to tackle the industry’s no longer tolerable fire problem.
Disraeli has often been quoted as saying there are “lies, damn lies and statistics.” The statistics might indicate the issue is being contained and managed. The reality shows that the issue will not continue unchallenged.
Horwich fire from Manchester Fire Service