• Lee Calver
  • 8 July 2014

Consultation opens on guidance to help reduce fire risk at waste management sites

A cross-industry group has developed draft guidance in an attempt to help reduce the risk of fires at waste management sites, and is now seeking feedback from the industry.

The comprehensive 89-page document has been prepared over the course of six months by the Environmental Services Association (ESA) in conjunction with the Environment Agency, HSE, and the Chief Fire Officers Association.

It was also revealed that the main insurance companies involved in waste management were also consulted for their views on some aspects of the document.

The guidance applies to waste sites where more than 50 cubic metres of solid combustible waste is stored or handled at any one time, and also applies to sites that may not have either:

  • a relevant sector specific fire code of practice recognised by the appropriate environmental regulator or other appropriate regulatory body; or
  • a site accident/emergency plan, which has been agreed with the local fire and rescue service (FRS).

According to the ESA, there is now an urgent need to issue this guidance, and its publication is “good practice based on legal requirements and the experience of regulators, insurers and the industry”.

For ease of reading the document is split into three sections. The first part covers general issues such as scope and fire risks, while the second section looks at specific fire control guidance for sites in four areas: whole site issues, issues in reception areas, treatment issues, and the storage of wastes.

Finally, a series of appendices included cover issues such as maximum stack sizes in external storage, producing an accident / emergency plan and checklists to help you determine whether your fire control is sufficient.

The ESA also revealed that the document is intended to be treated as ‘umbrella’ guidance, stating:

“It gives general advice, which will be applicable to a wide range of waste management and similar sites which handle wastes, but it cannot cover every specific aspect of all forms of waste management type operation.

“Future guidance produced by sector specific bodies or on specific waste management technologies will sit under this guidance to add detail to the general considerations provided below.”

The document has now been released for consultation by the ESA, however due to the urgent need for sector-specific guidance; respondents only have until Friday 25 July 2014 to voice their opinions. All comments on this draft should be directed to Stephen Freeland of ESA.

Read the full draft fire control guidance.  

Elsewhere, it has been reported that the UK will have to divert a significant amount of waste away from landfill under new EU proposals on recycling.

It has been suggested that the Commission wants to see 70% of municipal rubbish and 80% of packaging recycled by 2030, while it also wants a ban on burying recyclable waste in landfill by 2025.

The Commission claims a so-called ‘circular economy’ with more recycling will boost the European economy and create 580,000 new jobs.

Commenting, Environment Commissioner, Janez Potocnik, said:

"If we want to compete we have to get the most out of our resources, and that means recycling them back into productive use, not burying them in landfills as waste.

"Moving to a circular economy is not only possible, it is profitable, but that does not mean it will happen without the right policies."

He continued:

"The 2030 targets that we propose are about taking action today to accelerate the transition to a circular economy and exploiting the business and job opportunities it offers."

Figures published by the Government in November 2013 showed that 43.2% of waste in England was being recycled in 2012/13, and these new plans build on existing regulations that require councils to recycle half of their waste by 2020.

Although many have stated they believe the targets to be unrealistic, The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) argues that the UK can meet the new targets.

Offering his view, Steve Lee, Chief Executive of CIWM, said:

"We should be able to do it.

"Wales is already on course and Scotland and Northern Ireland have strong plans to do so. England should be no different, but much clearer and coordinated policy and communications from the Government, plus support for local authorities who are vital to this task, will be needed.”

What are your views on the new targets that the UK could be set regards recycling rates? Do you agree with Steve Lee of CIWM that they can be achieved or are they just too demanding?

Please let us know your thoughts on this and any other issues within this blog in our latest forum discussion group here.