Walsall Council and South Staffordshire Council have issued a reminder to residents not to dispose of unused fireworks in their recycling bins following a fire in a recycling collection vehicle on Monday 9 November 2020 on the A461 Lichfield Road, Walsall.
The Biffa vehicle had just finished its rounds collecting recycling waste from households in South Staffordshire and was on its way to a materials recovery facility when the fireworks ignited and caught fire in the back of the vehicle during the journey.
Collection crew members noticed smoke coming from the back of the vehicle and called for assistance from the Fire and Rescue Service and Police. No-one was hurt but the vehicle sustained fire and smoke damage. The full load of recycling waste was destroyed.
Unused fireworks were found to be the source of the problem.
Councillor Len Bates, Cabinet Member for Community Services at South Staffordshire Council, said:
“The unused fireworks were disposed of in a blue recycling bin and disaster was only averted thanks to the quick thinking of the driver and crew. I would like to say a massive thank you to them as well as the emergency services and Walsall Council’s highways and cleansing teams for clearing up afterwards.
“This thoughtless action by a resident caused a major health and safety threat to the crew onboard the vehicle and other road users. I’d like to remind residents that fireworks should be disposed of safely. Unused fireworks should never be placed in your wheelie bins. Used fireworks, properly doused and cool, should be disposed of in your non-recyclable household waste wheelie bin.”
Walsall Council portfolio holder for Clean and Green, Councillor Oliver Butler said:
“This could have been a very serious incident and I am grateful that no one was harmed. It is imperative, if you are purchasing fireworks, that they are disposed of appropriately after use and with thought for the safety of others. Used, discharged fireworks should be put in the grey bin but only after being thoroughly doused with water. I am really proud of both Tarmac and our own operatives who responded swiftly to support our South Staffordshire colleagues yesterday at a peak time, on one of our busiest arterial roads.
“Walsall Council along with Tarmac crews responded quickly deploying three Hiab grab wagons and worked hard to clear the highway of 16 tonnes of uncompressed wet recycling waste, collecting five loads in total whilst co-ordinating traffic management. The road was reopened in just two hours, shortly after 5pm, after we had deployed one of our sweepers to clear the final small bits of residue, ensuring delays to traffic were minimised and allowing road users—many of whom are also essential workers during this period of national lockdown—to get to where they needed to be safely.
“Contrary to rumour this incident was not a brazen fly tip on an epic scale but was the correct decision to jettison the recycling load in order to save the very expensive bin lorry, which could potentially have also damaged the road surface had the fire further developed inside the rear of the lorry. I would also like to thank West Midlands Fire Service for their quick initial response to the fire.”