Flaming recycling

A recent freedom of information request submitted to West Midlands fire service reveals the shocking figure that the recycling industry, founded largely on a lie costs the taxpayer.

A “lie” because recycling of paper, metal etc has in recent times been used to suggest that this generates substantial electricity for homes and thus everyone’s bills will somehow go down. They haven’t because they continue to rise and they don’t because the only people racking in the money are the operators of these wretched fire hazard zones.

There have been many instances in The West Midlands of massive scale fires occurring on these so called “recycling sites”, and in some cases the same charlatan operators having fires on multiple sites. Top of this list have to be EMR recycling who recover metal.

A request that I looked at dealt with a news item put on the West Midlands Fire service website entitled “recycling boss praises our firefighters.” This was a piece concerning the aftermath of a recycling site fire at Trinity Street, adjacent to the major chemical hazard area at the Solvay factory.

wmfs weir

WMFS at Weir recycling- picture WMFS


This facility run by Weir Waste was passed by Sandwell council’s planning committee in 2010, and was on the site of the former Chance and Hunt works which later became ICI and then “rosier transport services”.

“Some 200 tonnes of cardboard and plastics in a recycling plant were destroyed, and another 100 tonnes of baled plastics and cardboard stored outside were also involved.

Water for the incident was relayed via a High Volume Pumping Unit (HVPU) from a nearby canal.”

Personally I don’t think this facility should exist, and I made that clear in my objection to that application at the time. Read the council’s delegated decision below.


A visit to this site after the fire incident revealed a “clean up” operation under progress. A wily patrol dog came up to me waging its tail before deciding to eat nearly one half of a loaf of bread that I had about my person. The ravenous canine obviously had the run of the street, and lives amongst the baled garbage and general rubbish stored there.




Trinity Street- The infamous Albright and Wilson clock tower, now Solvay in the distance


Pile of unsightly junk left from the fire


Another pile of unsightly junk

But this fire- one of many in the Oldbury area in recent history and also the article raised some interesting questions about just how many of these major fire hazard sites had gone up in smoke, each time a major hazard to life and environmental health.

“West Midlands Fire Service attended 21 incidents at waste sites in 2015/16

  • Tackling and cleaning up fires at waste recycling sites cost up to £16m a year nationally”

My FOI request asked the following, and after a little delay I did get a comprehensive response from the fire service with a detailed xls spreadsheet.

“Could I request the location and site operators of the 21 incidents referred to at waste sites in 2015/16 to date.
Could I also request the same for the years 2012-2015 starting from 1st January 2012.

“The search for this kind of fires involves manually searching through incidents for the relevant keywords – recycling, waste, metal, paper, scrap
– The data attached includes primary and secondary fires at recycling/waste facilities between January 2012 and June 2016.  More incidents including from in comprehensive search.
– This data includes incidents at Landfill Sites.”
I would like to request the total if known or estimate if you have any recorded information of such as to the cost to WMFS of tackling and cleaning up fires at waste recycling sites between 2012-2016 to date.

“We do not have a recorded cost for individual Waste/Recycling Fires therefore it is exempt under Freedom of Information Act 2000 Section (1).
However if you wanted to calculate a notional cost please find attached our special service call rates.  The way special service calls were costed changed in 2013 with different charges dependant on the type of vehicle responding to the incident.”
Could you also indicate if any of this cost has been met by the operators of these sites and how much?

“We do not record this information therefore it is exempt under Freedom of
Information Act 200 Section (1)”


The data supplied reveals 189 incidents under the terms of the request dealt with by WMFS between January 2012 and Jun 2oth 2016. On average the fire service spent 37 hours 18 minutes at these fires, and this totalled 7051 hours 23 minutes and 29 seconds! This means the equivalent of over 293 days spent tackling fires from this industry.

Costs per hour for specialist equipment was also broken down in detail.

2011 – 2012 – £344 per hour
2012 – 2013 – £412.80 per hour
2013 onwards

fire costs

The charges for subsequent years can be seen to have obviously increased in the following years from the supplied xls table.

The list of sites and operators reveal the true cost of this appalling industry at work from the 189 incidents. The Weir waste incident for example on 27th April 2016 wasted if you’ll excuse the pun over 172 hours  of WMFS time and involved a reported 80 firefighters.


But this wasn’t the first time that the Trinity Street company had had a fire as revealed in the table. On 21st August 2013 there was a fire which totalled over 4 hours. Trinity Street clearly appears to occupy a great deal of time for the local fire service, and no matter which way you try to spin it, the folly of locating any new homes near this major hazard area is clearly quite bonkers.

Video Jim McNaughton Vimeo




One of EMR’s Fire hit sites

By far the most identifiable culprit is European Metal Recycling across a range of sites across the West Midlands. Their record is an absolute shambles of an operation and that cannot be denied from these findings. Reports of these incidents across the area can be found HERE  HERE and  HERE

As well as this it is clearly not just a regional issue with this company as can be revealed HERE HERE HERE and HERE.


Video Jim McNaughton Vimeo

In total EMR fires have cost West Midlands fire service a total of nearly 1000 wasted hours. The cost must have been tremendous to the tax payer- and the fact that our council tax bill for the service increases every single year without fail is also noted. Quite frankly as a non driver without a car I couldn’t give a shit what EMR do as I am not a consumer contributing to their glorified Steptoe and Son tatter  industry- but I severely resent paying the tab towards their shambolic practices.


Plenty more to go up in smoke


One of the largest fires in the country, and the largest that WMFS have ever dealt with occurred on  June 31st 2013 . I reported on some of the aftermath of this at the time on this blog.

A WMFS summary of this incident can be found below.

The stats on this video reveal

  • 14 million litres of water used in the first 12 hours
  • 19,000 tonnes of CO2 generated by the fire
  • 6000 fire fighter hours

and the warning that there are 57 recycling centre plants in The West Midlands.


The idea that all of this was somehow caused by a sky lantern and is not reflective on the sheer incompetence of this industry is banal and wrong. There were no sprinklers on this site, and for this everyone involved in the planning process at this site should have borne the total cost of their failure.

There have been subsequent fires at recycling centres since this request, and depressingly even more plans to build more plants, with some areas such as the West Bromwich and Oldbury border now becoming national centres for the countries collective garbage. So West Brom will soon have its very own used nappy and tampon bank, as if there wasn’t already enough bloody shit in the town without adding to it soiled bum gags and “ladies pencils.”

Whoever asked the local population for their views on this, and if they wanted to live next to a furnace centre where pollution in the sky is once again leading to the term “the black country” being relevant? This is not good for public health due to the nature of particulates released, and certainly not for the environment or water quality either.

We also have many so called “transfer stations” popping up, many with little or no approval and these deteriorate into waste piles such as the ones in Nelson Street in Oldbury.

We need to stop the expanse of these plants by stopping the manufacture of the waste that fuels them. “BAGS FOR LIFE”  need to be more than bags for a week and fully biodegradable materials should be sort. The disposable culture is one which only originated after the second world war, and we need to go back to something like that era to stop the senseless throwaway culture. If this means job losses in chemicals, plastic and automotive industries then great because they are all polluters and all of them are costing us more than just the earth.




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