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Pyrotechnics: feature or bug?

Another day, another recycling facility goes up in smoke. This time it's the Viridor plastics recycling facility in Chatham, which is sure to give the fire services an entertaining time trying to deal with rivers of molten plastic as well as the flames and the noxious fumes.



Last time we had a major recycling facility blaze, it turned out to be arson and with recyclers turning to ash at an alarming rate of knots you have to wonder if such pyrotechnics are not actually a bug, but instead are a feature of a system that bribes people to process low-value materials at high cost.

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Reader Comments (33)

Assuming that the recycling works and has some beneficial effects, how many years of effective recycling have been laid waste by this fire? We all know that burning plastics will generate dioxins unless done at highly controlled temperatures, how much of a dioxin dose has Kent received?

Is there really a net gain to be had by doing this sort of recycling?

Jun 8, 2015 at 10:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Crook

All that potential water-boiling, electricity-generating heat gone to waste.

Jun 8, 2015 at 10:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterOld Goat

Surely if businesses (like supermarkets etc) were encouraged just as forcefully as councils "encourage" their council taxpayers to recycle on pain of imprisonment then the need for such centres is reduced significantly?

Supermarkets use less wasteful and pointless packaging, consumers have less low value plastics etc to package, council shave less recycling to collect and process, less recycling plants go up in flames!

Surely a win - win situation for everyone?!?!?


Jun 8, 2015 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Before recycling became common, the place I worked for decided to recycle paper and cardboard. Every other month we got stricter and stricter conditions for the type of paper they wanted until the joke was that they'd ask if we could send only unprinted copier paper, preferably still in the original packaging. After we'd been doing it for about a year and a half the recycler had a mysterious fire wiping out huge stocks of scrap paper and cardboard. What a co-incidence? Annoyingly we lived in an area that made electricity from incineration already, which is how most of Europe decided to tackle the landfill legislation. I sometimes wonder where the dumb directors who decided to recycle went to when our company went bust.

Jun 8, 2015 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Two recycler fires here in the W. Mids in last 3 yrs. Composting...did they forget that in the Safety Case(s)...seems like it. They had to remove the fish from the local canals. For humans it was a stay at home windows closed recommend, while clumps of it dropped from the sky.

Jun 8, 2015 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterEx-expat Colin

Let's just have a close look at that, mailman

Supermarkets use less wasteful and pointless packaging,
so there are job losses in the wasteful and pointless packaging industry
consumers have less low value plastics etc to package,
so consumers benefit
councils have less recycling to collect and process,
which will almost certainly mean job losses at all levels in councils (because every time something is done differently in local government people "will get put out of work" (though funnily enough, they never do))
less recycling plants go up in flames!
There's a two-fold problem there: a. job losses in the "recycling" industry; b. no fat payout by the insurance company.
Surely a win - win situation for everyone?!?!?
No. Only for the consumer who is the least important element in that scenario.
Remember the Four Alls:
King: I rule all;
Bishop: I pray for all:
Soldier: I protect all;
Peasant: I pay for all.
"Losing" is our proper station in life, we peasants.

Jun 8, 2015 at 10:44 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

It wasn't an insider job was it?

." . .it could not happen . . ."

Jun 8, 2015 at 10:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

It's also worth pointing out, pertaining to Steve Crook's comment, that there is every chance that the dioxins released by this exceed the total level of dioxins released by all Europe's incinerators combined for a year.
I was once told, though I'm now struggling to find the reference unfortunately, that that was true of the dioxins put into the atmosphere in Edinburgh every Hogmanay by the fireworks display. I can't vouch for that but if it is anywhere near true it just adds to the ingrained mendacity of the environmental movement.
Verily are they weird people!

Jun 8, 2015 at 10:51 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

That fire looks almost as big as the one caused by the candles on my birthday cake on Saturday night.

Jun 8, 2015 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

When this site is cleaned up, where will the debris be dumped? Or will it be stored until the recommissioned facility can "safely" burn it "properly"?

Jun 8, 2015 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Thank goodness we have the Clean air Act, so that the 'visible particulates' from such accidents are truly apparent.

Jun 8, 2015 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Listen guys it's completely OK
..All those nice & non-mafia recycling companies have all bought lots of "recycling fires offsets"
... and they are always very good to their mothers ..bless em !

...Mr Cameron better chuck em an extra subsidy to get their business going again.
...............after all they probably helped with Conservative's election expenses

Jun 8, 2015 at 11:35 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Here's another one.

I am not sure they ever did any recycling there - just charged the council and companies to take the stuff away and piled it up in a giant heap until it conveniently caught fire. Although the company lost its licence, the site is still operating under new management, and still has wood etc piled higher than the fire brigade think is safe.

Jun 8, 2015 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

Does anybody know how many millions of taxpayer subsidies went up in smoke?

It is great for taxpayers to understand how their money is wasted on making a few people very rich, at no personal risk.

FIFA officials must be wondering why they did not think of such a "get rich quick" scheme

Jun 8, 2015 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

It's certainly a feature in the West Midlands:

And clearly somebody has a sense of irony:

Jun 8, 2015 at 12:13 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

most of the time factories catch fire in order to cash in from insurances

Jun 8, 2015 at 12:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterVenusNotWarmerDueToCO2

I do not believe in recycling unless the materials recovered are genuinely in short supply and the stated urgent need to recycle plastic is a joke. Man has some kind of need for things to happen on human lifespan scales otherwise it is regarded as infinite/permanent, however the planet is comfortable with much longer cycles. It might take tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of years but as tectonic plates are created and destroyed; the earth will recycle all the plastic man leaves behind. Grind the plastic into smaller particles and dig bigger holes.

Jun 8, 2015 at 12:20 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Damage estimated at £80.

Jun 8, 2015 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterGamecock

you have to wonder if such pyrotechnics are not actually a bug, but instead are a feature of a system that bribes people to process low-value materials at high cost.

In my days as a Test Engineer a certain well known manufacturer of Integrated Circuits normally described bugs as features.

You've found that feature too

Jun 8, 2015 at 12:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS
Interesting article from 2003 about the merits or otherwise of recycling.

Jun 8, 2015 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

The "recycling" mantra is getting rather tired as people see stuff like this occur with increasing frequency.

The tax sucking via landfill tax to "Nature Trusts" and bonkers subsidized white elephant schemes continues apace....

They'd have you believe there's no such thing as rubbish.... When people actually try to do stuff they run into a miasma of red tape and corruption - I'd bet that the pile in Kent was there because of some hideously contorted administrative bungling.

Jun 8, 2015 at 12:56 PM | Registered Commentertomo

While a lot of recycling is not worth the effort (burying glass as aggregate in road buildng - landfill by the back door) isn't the PET Bottles -> Polar Fleece a bit of a success story in recycling?

Jun 8, 2015 at 1:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterClovis Marcus

You can be sure of one thing: someone has a model that says global warming will make these events more frequent.

Jun 8, 2015 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Another type of building that combusts regularly is the pleasure pier.

It isn't immediately obvious why hardwood and steel, surrounded by water, should be so prone to incineration.

But the required renovations are a lot easier to fund with an insurance premium.

Jun 8, 2015 at 1:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterMCourtney

Clovis Marcus

yes - up to a point. There is also the wood-plastic composite business. The problems seem to arise when the peculators see somebody who actually has identified / invented something that's actually commercially viable ... before it's up and running - and they seem to rush to foul it up - because they can. The public sector deep-down doesn't want any competition or independent action noooo....

Jun 8, 2015 at 1:59 PM | Registered Commentertomo

With all the taxpayer funded grants and subsidies, there is great money to be made from building these things.

Grants and subsidies for running them, are not profitable enough. Therefore grants and subsidies must be increased, to stop recycling plants from being recycled, as landfill.

It would be cheaper not to have GreenLuvvie logic failure in the first place.

Jun 8, 2015 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I'm surprised that nobody, including the good bishop, have mentioned the fire in the recycling facility in Bridgend in South Wales. It started on Friday and took a day to put out.

Bridgend fire: Brynmenyn Industrial Estate blaze put out

A fire that burned for more than 24 hours at a recycling centre in Bridgend county has now been extinguished.
Firefighters have left Brynmenyn Industrial Estate after officers finished damping down on Saturday.

At its height, 65 firefighters tackled the blaze at a mattress recycling unit that broke out at 09:00 BST on Friday.
Council contractors will now start to make the site safe and an investigation into the fire is expected to start on Monday.

All roads in the surrounding area have now reopened.

Cooling jets had to be used on gas cylinders, which weighed up to 47kg (104lb) each, on the site.

Jun 8, 2015 at 3:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Roy, is it known what mattresses get recycled into? Bed bug breeding colonies for backpacking holidays?

Jun 8, 2015 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The Bridgend recycling fire was supposed to have been 'accidental' due to the exhaust of a mini-digger igniting the matresses:

Plausible, or what?

Jun 8, 2015 at 4:45 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Salopian, why wasn't the mini digger powered by batteries? They are so much more labour intensive and dangerous for the emergency services when they catch fire.

Jun 8, 2015 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Just one addition (from very, very many):-
Ironically, at the (closed since 2003) Gascoigne Wood mine, where all the product of the Selby Mines used to come to the surface before being sent (mainly) to Drax. Up to 12.5 Million tonnes per year of good quality coal.
I remember one of the Alkali Inspectorate (remember them?) chief boffins telling me that, were St. Simeon Stylites to come back to Earth and to take up residence on the top of the chimney of the incineration plant in Cleveland, he would receive a lower dosage of Dioxin in a year, than someone with a garden bonfire in one evening.
But, if you really want to see a bunch of greenies bouncing off the walls, you only have to creep up behind them and mutter the magic word "incineration".
No matter that those Green Germans, Austrians, Swiss etc. have incinerated much of their waste for electricity and heat for many years.
I think it was only when Fracking came on the scene (and fancier, more dangerous and more expensive ways of getting rid of waste developed) that the greenies have given it a bit of a rest.
Which brings us to one of the real problems.
Why does neither Government nor industry EVER challenge the green bar stewards, no matter how laughable their claims?

Jun 8, 2015 at 6:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby


"Why does neither Government nor industry EVER challenge the green bar stewards, no matter how laughable their claims?"

They do - but the Brit MSM efficiently ensure people (not BH readers et al) don't get to hear about it. What's the BBC's news + current affairs share 70%? Add in the green riddled Press Association and the pretty cautious spineless line taken by the remainder. Add in that "climate change" is a catch-all justification for any public sector wastrel and you've covered nearly all the bases.

We are seeing epic censorship by omission. Occasionally something like Iceland CEO Malcolm Walker's opinion of SNP policy ("bollocks" was the word he used in case you missed it) sneaks past - but by and large it's a diet of strained / filtered sludge concocted by activists who wheedled their way into our media over the last 25 years.

Jun 8, 2015 at 11:15 PM | Registered Commentertomo

"Gascoigne Wood mine"

Is that like a soup well?

Oh, I see...

Jun 9, 2015 at 1:09 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

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