Concerns over gas canisters grow after MRF explosion

Wakefield council reported there was an explosion at its sorting facility in South Kirkby last month (28 July), caused by a gas canister in the recycling that was compressed during baling.

The explosion caused by a gas canister in recycling was caught on video

The council explained that “luckily, no one was hurt, but the incident posed a very dangerous situation for our staff”.

The local authority said that the explosion, caught on video, led to six hours of downtime and considerable damage to the baler, adding that the frequency of explosions is “on the increase at our site and also nationally”.

This is likely to lead to questions about whether there should be special containers for such items, as younger residents in city centres often don’t visit a HWRC as frequently a other demographics.

Concern

The accident reiterates the point made by multiple waste and recycling companies who highlighted the increase in the number of gas canisters.

This is a concern for both operators of materials recycling facilities and energy from waste plants, who said this is posing a health and safety risk as well as increasing carbon emissions at EfW plants (see letsrecycle.com story).

Therefore, Wakefield council has urged residents to dispose of any gas canisters – including propane bottles, butane bottles and nitrous dioxide – at their local household waste and recycling centre “to be recycled safely”.

‘Avoidable’

Gary Blenkinsop, service director for environment, streetscene and climate change, confirmed that an increased number of gas canisters is coming through the council’s waste recycling facility because they’ve been put in household bins.

Commenting on the explosion, he added: “Last month, a canister ignited while being compressed as part of the household waste recycling process.

“Fortunately, no one was hurt, but incidents of this kind – which are entirely avoidable – can potentially put staff at risk, which is completely unacceptable.”

Facility

The South Kirkby waste treatment site is operated by Renewi, previously Shanks, under a 25-year deal signed in 2012.

The deal included building a facility to treat residual waste, with a MRF on the site for separating dry recycled materials like paper, card, glass bottles, cans and plastics.

As part of the agreement, Renewi took over the running of the council’s existing HWRCs, transfer stations and bring sites and is responsible for recycling and disposal of all municipal waste collected by the authority (see letsrecycle.com story).

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