Waste firm reminds people about safe recycling after fire at Wigan depot

Items placed in the wrong household bin have been blamed for the fire.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 9:34 am

A small blaze broke out in the transfer station at the Kirkless centre on June 13, Wigan Council's waste partner FCC Environment said.

A cluster of electrical items placed incorrectly in a household dry mixed recycling bin caught fire in the storage bay at the Makerfield Way depot.

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The Kirkless depot in Ince

Thankfully no-one was hurt and only minor damage was caused after staff at the facility spotted the flames quickly and took immediate action.

However, FCC Environment now wants to remind residents why it is vital that all electrical and battery-operated items are delivered to one of the three recycling centres within the Wigan borough for responsible treatment and disposal.

FCC Environment's area supervisor Tracy Roe said: "Dealing with people’s waste can be hazardous, but as a business and as an industry we have gone to great lengths and indeed expense to endeavour to make the sector as safe as it can be.

"So we have very clear processes in place to spot incidents of this nature and we have clear protocols to deal with them, which were tested with this incident.

“As required of us, we had to spread, dampen down the stock and place a fire watch process in place using a thermal imaging camera and remove all material affected by the fire which unfortunately meant valuable material was no longer able to be recycled, and instead was downgraded to domestic waste before resuming operations.

"In this case, no one was injured, and no major damage was done to our premises, but we would call upon the public to please think before putting any electrical or battery-operated items in their household waste bins.”

Dead batteries thrown away with other waste and recycling are likely to be crushed or punctured once the waste is collected and processed.

Some battery types, like lithium-ion (Li-ion) and nickel-metal Hydride (NiMH), can ignite or even explode when they are damaged.

Once this happens, the batteries can quickly set fire to other materials present in the waste, like paper, leading to serious incidents that put lives at risk.

Although safe to use normally, powerful lithium-ion batteries are typically the most dangerous if they are not recycled properly.

These batteries are often found in products like laptops, tablets, mobile phones, radio-controlled toys, Bluetooth devices, shavers, electric toothbrushes, power tools, scooters and e-cigarettes.

Recent data shows that, between April 2019 and March 2020, lithium-ion batteries alone were thought to be responsible for more than 250 fires at waste facilities during, accounting for some 38 per cent of all fires.

Coun Paul Prescott, portfolio holder for environmental services at Wigan Council, said: “It’s not just electrical items that cause fires at our waste and recycling facilities. Every summer we also have cases of disposable BBQ trays being popped into household bins before they are thoroughly cool and the still hot coals are also known to cause fires.

"We would therefore ask that, as the summer starts, the public leave disposable trays, and indeed coals from a static BBQ, for some days before transporting to us at the recycling centre.”

The three sites are Kirkless on Makerfield Way in Higher Ince, Slag Lane in Leigh and the Chanters Industrial Estate in Atherton. They are open seven days a week, from 8am until 7.45pm in the summer and 9am until 5.45pm in the winter, except Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day.

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