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Fire down below

Another day, another fire at a recycling plant, this time at a site near Hull (H/T Stewgreen).

Firefighters were battling a major fire at a waste recycling plant in Melton early today.

The fire broke out at a large facility in Gibson Lane shortly after 7am.

At least six crews from Humberside Fire and Rescue were in attendance and large plumes of acrid black smoke could be seen coming from the scene.

This is getting to be a familiar story isn't it?

A month ago there was one in Swindon. Two weeks earlier there was one in East London. In April there was one in Wrexham. In March there was one in Salford.

A report by the Chief Fire Officers' Association last year described one such incidient:

...the incident at the Jayplas Recycling Depot in Smethwick produced some truly startling statistics, with approximately 100,000 tonnes of recycled plastic involved in a fire that at its height required the deployment of 39 Fire engines and over 200 Firefighters. In the first 12 hours of operations, 14 Million litres of water were used simply to contain a fire that released an estimated 19,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. (West Midlands Fire Service, 2013).

Cleaner, greener Britain not quite as described.As I am fond of noting, most recycling appears to be economic insanity, driven by alleged benefits on the carbon emissions front rather than hard-headed cost-benefit analysis (exceptions are aluminium and precious metals). The resources that have to be ploughed into recycling appear to be routinely ignored.

It's hard to credit the idea that, say, hydraulic fracturing represents an unacceptable environmental risk but that recycling is going to give us a better, cleaner country.

How long will it be before recycling is forbidden, rather than compulsory?

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Reader Comments (28)

Your photograph is more like Mordor than Great Britain.
When will the eco-cretins learn that there are times when landfill is recycling? There are more potentially dangerous holes in the ground in the UK (sand, gravel, stone, opencast, you-name-it) than there is waste to fill them on a year on year basis.
Stuff them full of rubbish, capture or flare off the methane, bring them back into productive use for agriculture, housing, leisure, tree-planting, whatever.
Simples. (Unless of course you're a brainwashed greenie.)

Sep 29, 2014 at 8:56 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

You have to wonder how you can build up 100k ton of recycled plastics... unless in fact there's no market for it and they're just storing it because they don't know what to do with it!

In that type of situation, it might just solve all the companies problems if a big fire came and made it go away....

Sep 29, 2014 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered Commenterlabrat

If anybody wants to ruin their lunch, look at Orpington's fire works

the site is meant to generate flammable gas to save the planet and, lo and behold, it generates a lot of flammable gas

Sep 29, 2014 at 8:57 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

At about the same time as Smethwick we had something similar (Kidderrminster W.Mids) on fire for weeks and smoldering for months.

Great clods of plastic sh*te dropping on us..stay indoors they said. They had to get the fish out of the canal adjacent. Real sad stuff.

I think the fire safety assessment prior to commencement of the recycling plant missed out the power of composting ?

Sep 29, 2014 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterEx- expat Colin

Another green success story. No doubt Davey will claim this is creating jobs.

Sep 29, 2014 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

Judging by the photo, I would say that emitting carbon into the atmosphere in this case is correct. Normally carbon emissions means carbon dioxide emissions, but clearly not in these fires.

I wonder if DECC is keeping a tally of emissions caused by recycling. Where I live a large diesel truck comes along the lane, turns around and then goes back. It does this every week. It serves 6 properties on a 3 mile journey and I would estimate that on average it picks up only one collection per week. I only put stuff out about once a month at most and a couple of farms never put anything out.

Sep 29, 2014 at 9:33 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

The Jayplas inferno was just one in an absurd sequence of recycling plant fires in the Midlands - just one of 19 dealt with by local fire services between January and August 2013. One assumes that these 'valuable', albeit unsaleable resources must be very well insured?

Sep 29, 2014 at 9:40 AM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

MJ has the right idea, but it can be (and has been) extended into a fully commercial proposition. I worked for Philips many years ago, in the Industrial Automation and Gas/Liquid Chromatography fields, and worked on a project in Zwolle in the Netherlands. The concept was very straight forward: once the landfill was complete, install a bio-gas extraction system, i.e. pipes in the ground drawing off the gases resulting from decomposition, then cover the landfill with a protective membrane and earth (I don't know the exact details - I worked on the systems automation). The gas drawn off was then scrubbed to remove impurities, tested, and if within the correct bounds of composition and burn rate (wobbe index), fed into the town supply to be mixed with regular gas. The whole gas plant was unmanned and automated.

I have even heard of accelerated composing of household waste, i.e. shred it, mix it and compost it (with occasional turning, as all good gardeners will tell you), selling the end result as just that - compost. Even modern plastics, once shredded and allowed to compost, will break down.

I've always been suspect of the economics of recycling, and would like to see a typical financial model, including any subsidies (e.g. via government contracts) they include.

Sep 29, 2014 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterilma

Yes @Ilma that's how it works here in Scunthorpe. We are nowhere near Manchester, but trainloads of rubbish is brought from there and dumped in the old opencast iron quarries and the gas is collected from the top.

"Even modern plastics, once shredded and allowed to compost, will break down." I'm not sure about that, however the published figs for plastic bag durability don't stand up to my camping experience. Normal non-bio-degradable shopping bags seem to have decayed within 2 months not 20 years.

Sep 29, 2014 at 9:58 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

This is not a new phenomenon. Where I used to work before 2000, started recycling cardboard before most councils looked at it. Twice we had to switch where we sent the stuff because of a fire. I'm sure the fires were *cough* accidental. Each time we were asked to upgrade the quality of what we sent to the point they would only accept scrap office paper. The joke was that the next one would demand the paper blank and still in it's original packaging.

Sep 29, 2014 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Yep @Phillip Bratby does DECC keep a tally of carbon dust & CO2 emissions caused by recycling ?
- I Bet with all these fires the recycling industry creates more pollution than actual chemical manufacturing industry does !

"Major fires at waste management and recycling companies average one daily in the UK. While numbers have remained constant, the scale and profile of fires has increased."
website of the Fire Alarm company surprisingly doesn't play down the problem lists quite a few

and clickable links postors mentioned above
- DailyMail Orpington, Kent mound with multiple fires since 2011
- Kidderminster June 2013
- Birminghampost Premier Waste, Walsall Road, Perry Barr 6th Aug 2014

Sep 29, 2014 at 10:19 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

@ilma @stewgreen
So-called composted waste is yet another huge green con. The process ilma describes as "accelerated Composting" is only accelerated by the fact that the composting stage seems to have either missed out completely, or to be so brief as to be useless. The end results are compost with a high proportion of woody material (which I think depletes Nitrogen? ) bits of shredded plastic and a bit of added soil. It doesn't seem to matter how much you pay for these products the result is the same.

It would be true to say that they appear weed free but I wonder if it is heat treatment not composting that achieves this.
The growing results are poor. Seedlings die off you can't get a fine seed bed without riddling out the rubbish and water retention is so variable it's a nightmare.
Oh for a bit of peat!

Sep 29, 2014 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered Commenternicholas

Ah here's the useful page of official stats showing it is about 1 per day, but fallen to 300/year now ..from Chief Fire Officers Association
- Another newstory about them

Sep 29, 2014 at 10:56 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Oh for a bit of peat!
Wash your mouth out, boy!

Sep 29, 2014 at 11:08 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson
Recycling is a great idea, but........

Sep 29, 2014 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

All that heat could be used to generate electricity.

But never mind the carbon think about the dioxins!

Sep 29, 2014 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

"How long will it be before recycling is forbidden, rather than compulsory?"

Not much chance in Norfolk - we've had a doorstep recycling scheme for many years, which takes paper/card, metal cans and the larger plastic containers. I have no problem with this, and there are numerous local collection points for glass. But now we are going to be allowed to add smaller plastic containers, such as yoghurt pots and butter/margarine tubs, which will inevitably be contaminated. But, unbelievably, we will also be able to dispose of glass in the SAME bin! Bearing in mind that all refuse collection trucks have hydraulic compactors, this will mean that previously easily sorted waste, will now be a sticky mixture, laden with dangerous glass fragments...

Sep 29, 2014 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterDave Ward

All to comply with EU regs.
Since these regs stop at the kerbside, we therefor comply with them, no matter what happens after the waste is chucked into the dustbin lorry.
I have an idea that it can't be used to generate electricity if burnt!

Sep 29, 2014 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

" a fire that released an estimated 19,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere."

That would be the least of the "emissions" problems.

What about the HCN, CO, dioxins etc.


Ah, but it is "green" project so the noxious emissions "don't count"..

Sep 29, 2014 at 1:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

You ain't seen nuffin' yet...

Just wait till we've got huge piles of wood chips at Drax and elsewhere (and - shhhhh - don't mention Tilbury....)

Sep 29, 2014 at 2:00 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Industry recycled metal because it was valuable and cardboard you didn't have to pay dump fees.

The easiest way to recycle disposable plastic is use it for fuel. It is basically refined hydrocarbons, just like refined fuels. Greens are too dim to get this, they think it must be reused like metals.

Sep 29, 2014 at 10:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterEric Gisin

"I have an idea that it can't be used to generate electricity if burnt!"

It most certainly can! I can't understand the enthusiasm for landfill displayed here. It is NOT a good idea dumping household or industrial garbage in e. g. gravel pits which work as sieves geologically speaking (clay pits are better).

But why don't you burn it for electricity and heating? A ton of garbage is equal to about 1.5 barrels of oil and if burned in a properly designed incinerator the environmental impact is negligible. Of course the logistics must work (no storing of kilotons of plastic please) and the ashes disposed of (can be used for e. g. roadbuilding, but are also safe as landfill). Many towns in Sweden now use garbage as fuel for their area-heating systems, in fact so many that we have to import garbage. True, the biofuel crowd is complaining, since garbage is way cheaper than woodchips. Initially the environmental agency tried to stop it too, but they had to give in when it was shown that one single uncontrolled garbage fire (like the ones mentioned above) releases more nasties into the atmosphere than several years' operation of a large garbage fired powerplant.
Of course the ordinary environmentally-conscious Swede will sort his garbage into numerous different categories, however in practice only high-quality paper waste, metals and (some) glass is recycled. The rest ends up in the incinerators, one way and another. The only important thing really is to keep glass separate, since it melts and clogs up the incinerators. Everything else can be burned, and scrap metal magnetically separated afterwards.

Sep 30, 2014 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

"It would be true to say that they appear weed free but I wonder if it is heat treatment not composting that achieves this."

Almost certainly. At least here in Sweden botanists love large compost heaps because of all the exotic weeds and escaped garden species that grow on them. Unless treated with herbicides a compost heap will be literally waist deep in weeds by September.

Sep 30, 2014 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

There is going to be an inquiry into the Swindon fire, if it hasn't started already. The report should be interesting reading, not least because of the argy-bargy between the EA and the other parties about who would pay the land fill tax when they had to clear some of the site to be able to get to the fire to try to put it out. It started on 21st July and went on for 8 weeks.

And at what cost to the public purse (and us tax payers)?

Sep 30, 2014 at 5:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy

Old news here in Canada. We even have a song by a great songwriter, Fred Eaglesmith.

Just in case you are wondering why everyone in Hagersville, Ontario, has wooden tires:

Sep 30, 2014 at 5:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterCaligulaJones

Bish writes:

most recycling appears to be economic insanity

Hear! Hear! To the best of my knowledge we haven't (yet) had any fires at these UNEP generated "economic insanities" in my neck of the woods, i.e. Beautiful British Columbia.

But when the cheery folks from "think green" waste management brought around the oh-so-convenient-not apartment recycle bins to my neighbourhood, I was not a happy camper! And I was even less happy when I did some independent digging:

Wastelandia: Andrew Weaver et al‘s big green choru$ and $ymphony … in the key of Gore

Oct 1, 2014 at 4:57 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

A couple of points ...
First, there should be neither weeds nor herbicide in a properly "constructed" and maintained compost heap/pit/bin. I am just about to break down mine from last year and if past history is anything to go by I will have excellent material for potting and for adding to the garden as compost ready for next season.
Second, on the burning of waste material, I absolutely agree with you except that some regulation or other (UK Environment Agency or EU, I'm not sure which) doesn't allow it. Longannet tried it for a while only to be forced to stop because waste has to be treated as waste and not used for productive purposes apparently!
The eco-luddites have long used "dioxins" as a reason not to have local combined heat-and-power systems using much the same tactics that they are using to prevent fracking. I read somewhere (and I can't find the reference now unfortunately) that Edinburgh's New Year fireworks display puts more dioxins into the atmosphere than all Europe's waste incinerators combined in a full year. I can quite believe it.
Am I the only person who wonders why we never ever get right down to the true reason why the eco-luddites oppose so vehemently what the rest of us see as common sense and good economics?

Oct 1, 2014 at 8:31 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Investigators confirm ARSON
Someone raised the issue that fires are convenient for the recycling corps, so saving them the problem of recycling the stuff they have been paid to recycle.
..the next the day the BBC the mentioned arson, but when I checked the companies website they really played the fire down.
.....and now this confirmation from Humberside Fire and Rescue Service the fire was 'started deliberately'

Oct 4, 2014 at 9:57 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

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