Waste fire tests to monitor emissions

Environment Agency to study emissions given off by different types of waste material

Large-scale fire tests planned this autumn will seek to provide more information about emissions given off by different types of waste material when involved in a fire.

The live stack burns, which were originally expected to take place last year, will be the first of any large significance in 40 years.

The live fire tests will provide answers to material emissions

The live fire tests will provide answers to material emissions

The tests will be organised by the Waste Industry Safety & Health (WISH) Forum in conjunction with the Environment Agency and Chief Fire Officers Association as part of their ongoing work to create guidance for waste and recycling operators to prevent fires and reduce their impact on the environment.

By burning the material, the organisations hope to provide a ‘scientifically-backed’ answer to the size of waste stacks and the distance between them during storage.

The tests will measure the effect of fire on large quantities of baled waste and recyclables, focusing on ‘fire dynamics’ and the point at which the heat causes the material to ignite at a distance.


They will also look at the effect that rising columns of gas have on fuelling waste fires, wind-current effects, and how different materials burn or smoulder depending on their make-up.

According to WISH Forum chair Chris Jones, the Environment Agency is keen to find out what emissions are given off by different kinds of waste.

He said: “In issuing the guidance, what we found was there was no pure or hard science to stack measurements or separation distances. We recognised what we had to do is burn some of these materials that weren’t around in the 70s when the original separation measurements were laid out.

“We need to be able to understand how fire affects the material around it. The Environment Agency is particularly interested in the emissions given off from different kinds of waste. This research will change stack sizes and separation distances.”


The tests follow criticism from the Wood Recyclers’ Association this summer, who argued that the Agency’s “unscientific” wood storage restrictions were hindering the sector.

WRA made the comments after Hadfield Wood Recyclers was forced to close its gates in Manchester and Middlesbrough to incoming lower grade waste wood due to the enforcement of what it described as “unworkable” storage restrictions.

Mr Jones added: “The tests will provide a scientifically backed answer, so I can’t guarantee the wood recyclers are going to like it. The WRA has always said they are on board with the tests. Once we have the information it will be hard to argue with it.”

The tests are expected to go ahead this autumn with the results to be fed into existing guidance. The findings will not be issued until “around Easter 2016”.


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