Somerset council initiates fire safety risk alert with tags on recycling bags

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Somerset residents receive safety tags on blue recycling bags

Somerset Council, in collaboration with SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, has initiated a fire safety campaign by attaching warning tags to the recycling blue bags of residents.

The tags are designed to alert the community about the risks of disposing of potentially hazardous items like camping gas canisters.

These items have been frequently found within recycling, posing a significant threat of fires.

Council and SUEZ address fire safety risk

To curb the risk of fire and ensure the safety of waste collection crews, every blue recycling bag used for household recycling has been fitted with a tag cautioning against the dangers of flammable objects.

This move comes after SUEZ workers discovered a record 2,500 gas canisters in recycling collections since May 2023, each representing a potential fire hazard.

Due to safety concerns, including the risk of injury from broken glass, crews are instructed not to sift through the blue bags at the kerbside.

Recent incidents underscore the need for caution

The council has reported six fire-related incidents involving trucks and depots over the past year.

Despite additional manual inspections to identify such risks, every canister remains a potential fire danger upon reaching the depot.

It is important to note that investigations into the cause of a recent fire at the Taunton Recycling Site are ongoing.

Differentiation between aerosols and gas canisters

While aerosols such as hair sprays and deodorants are safe to place in the Bright Blue Bag, gas canisters are not due to their higher pressure and flammability.

The council and SUEZ emphasize the correct presentation of recyclables to maintain safety for all.

Guidelines for safe recycling practices

Residents are advised to follow specific guidelines when recycling items like vapes and batteries:

  • Vapes: If recyclable, they should be placed in an open bag next to or on top of recycling boxes, with reusable batteries removed for separate recycling.
  • Batteries: These should be put in a clear, tied bag on top of the recycling and never thrown into the rubbish bin.

For disposal of small gas canisters, residents are directed to one of Somerset’s 16 recycling sites, with further guidance available from site staff. Information on local recycling centers can be found at the Somerset government website.

Comments from Somerset Council and SUEZ

Councillor Dixie Darch, Executive Member for Executive Lead Member for Environment and Climate Change, highlighted the balance between encouraging recycling and ensuring safety: “It’s great that residents are making the effort to recycle but some items can pose a danger to crews and trucks.

“It’s important that we handle these items with care. The tag will help provide a reminder each time we put our recycling out to be collected.”

Matt Canning, Contract Director at SUEZ recycling and recovery UK in Somerset, reinforced the importance of the new safety measure: “The safety of our dedicated staff at SUEZ and of the residents we service are very important, with the increase in fires over the past year posing a significant risk to both.

“We created this new tag to help inform residents about proper disposal methods.

“We ask that all residents take note of their new tag, found on the blue bag, and implement this in their everyday recycling.”

Somerset Council’s ongoing commitment to UK-based recycling

With over 350,000 collections weekly, Somerset Council notes that more than 96% of the materials collected are recycled within the UK.

For more information on local recycling services and to download a collection calendar, residents can visit the Somerset government waste site.

IFSJ Comment

The introduction of safety tags by Somerset Council signifies a proactive approach to managing fire safety risks in the community.

By targeting the disposal habits of residents, the council is not only working to prevent hazardous incidents but also fostering an environment of safety awareness.

Such initiatives are pivotal in maintaining the wellbeing of waste collection staff and the integrity of recycling operations, which have seen a disturbing uptick in fire-related incidents.

Through these tags, the council delivers a critical reminder of the ongoing responsibility shared by residents and services alike in mitigating fire hazards inherent in waste management.

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