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New guidance to reduce waste fires

New guidance published recently will help operators to take the right actions to reduce the risk of fires at waste sites in Wales.

There have been several large fires at waste sites in recent years that have taken up to three weeks to extinguish.

The new guidance - published by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and the three fire and rescue services in Wales - is based on experiences from fighting real fires and tests carried out by the Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum and supported by the Chief Fire Officers Association.

The tests investigated how quickly different types of waste burn and the heat they generate.

Waste tested included loose and baled waste, plastic, paper and board, rubber, wood waste and waste derived fuels.

Tests were also carried out to burn large amounts of waste to simulate the experience of the fire and rescue services when fighting real waste fires.

Gareth Davies, Senior Environment Officer for Natural Resources Wales, said:

“It’s our job to check waste operators are complying with their permit and have effective plans in place to minimise the risk to people and the environment.

“Waste fires and the smoke generated can have a big impact on communities as they can burn for weeks.

“The previous guidance needed updating to include recent findings from real fires and the fire tests.

“We urge all operators to follow the new guidance and ensure they manage waste stockpiles in the safest way possible. For example, using concrete walls as physical fire breaks will allow operators to store waste stacks closer together.

“We should then see a drop in the amount of waste fires across Wales and see less impact on the environment and communities should they occur.”

An officer from the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service worked with NRW for six months to help develop the guidance. A further two officers from the fire and rescue services have also joined NRW to help implement the work.

The guidance will be phased in with existing waste operators and will apply to all new waste permits.

The guidance can be viewed by visiting www.naturalresources.wales/permitguidance

The guidance document has been compiled by NRW in collaboration with:

  • South Wales Fire and Rescue Service
  • Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, and
  • North Wales Fire and Rescue Service 

Burn tests were carried out in 2015 and 2016 by the Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum, supported by the Chief Fire Officers Association.

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