A package containing ‘powdered chemicals’, believed to be from Brazil, saw seven staff hospitalised at a paper recycling depot owned by Recycling UK in Oswestry, Shropshire.
The chemicals were thought to be inside a bale of paper which was sent to Oswestry Paper Recycling – a subsidiary of Recycling UK – by a supplier, and became airborne after the bag they were in split on December 6 2018.
Workers exposed to the material were taken to hospital, where five of the staff were kept overnight and released the following morning, while the remaining two were discharged the same day.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said it is “aware” of the incident and making enquiries, while the owner of the site has said the Environment Agency is also looking at how the substance was able to get into the material.
Speaking to letsrecycle.com, Neil Clarke, managing director of Recycling UK, said: “The incident was caused by a package of powdered chemicals which were accidentally sent to us inside a container of paper.
“The issue is now being dealt with by the Environment Agency and the HSE, to see how the chemicals were able to get into the country, and the recycling stream.
“We were closed for 24 hours following the incident. The package was taken away and the site was decontaminated.
“The incident is a one-off accident that couldn’t have been predicted. It could have happened anywhere.
“Special thanks go to the local hospital and the staff here, everything was dealt with as it should have been, and we are now waiting for feedback from the authorities.”
Oswestry Paper Recycling’s waste transfer station, on the Mile Oak Industrial Estate, services the Midlands, Shropshire, Staffordshire, North Wales and the North West of England.
Materials handled at the facility include paper, cardboard and plastics – with volumes totalling around 800 tonnes a week.