POLICE are searching for arsonists who destroyed thousands of council wheelie bins by starting an early hours blaze.
Intruders broke into a rented council cleansing storage depot on Saturday, and set a fire which tore through the vast majority of the new blue bins, which were ready to be rolled out to residents as part of the programme to increase Wigan’s percentage of waste recycling.
More than 4,000 bins were destroyed outright or seriously damaged in the fire, at Wigan Council Business Support Services depot, at Linstock Way, in Atherton.
For more than two hours, fire crews from Hindley and Atherton stations battled clouds of acrid smoke, that could be smelled up to five miles away.
Their prompt attention prevented a significant level of structural damage to the bin storage building, formerly Staverly Vessels.
The loss is being estimated at a cost of at least £72,000. A spokesman for the council said that, with the authority battling to maintain services against a background of Government spending cuts, the incident was “very, very disappointing”.
He said: “The unit was left in a secure condition, but entrance was forced by intruders, and police are now investigating a case of suspected arson.
“The blue bins are a key element of the council’s recycling programme, and were about to be rolled out to households across the borough.
“We hope that anyone who may have witnessed anything suspicious comes forward to help the police with their enquiries. These bins were being stored ready to be rolled out across the area to boost the recycling rate, and help to save the council money that will benefit thousands of households across the borough.”
A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police confirmed they were investigating the blaze, and appealed for witnesses. Anyone with any information is asked to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 111 555.