How to avoid waste fires | Commercial Recycling News

How to avoid waste fires

We all know the basic ways to prevent a fire and we make sure our actions avoid creating a fire; we don’t leave flames unattended, or the straighteners switched on. But we don’t always give the same consideration to waste and preventing waste fires despite UK fire services attending around a whopping 300 waste site fires each year*.

But there are things that you can do when managing waste to prevent a fire. In this article we want to share some helpful tips to avoid waste fires.

What is a waste fire?

Before going into how to avoid waste fires, it is important to understand what a waste fire is. As it says on the tin, a waste fire is fire that starts and spreads through rubbish that is being collected and piled.

There are two types of waste fires; surface fires and deep seated fires.

A surface fire is started when a heat source comes into contact with something flammable on the surface of the waste pile. This could be something as simple as adding a disposable BBQ to your rubbish bin before it has had time to properly cool down.

A deep seated fire starts at the centre of the rubbish pile. There are 3 reasons why a fire could start. The first is spontaneous combustion, when through the decomposition process the temperature rises leading to combustion. The second is legacy heat, where something that was previously hot maintains its heat and is buried in the waste pile. And finally piloted ignition, which is when an already ignited heat source is buried in the pile of rubbish.

Within the home

Don’t put hot rubbish in the bin

If you heat anything up to use, make sure that it cools down properly before throwing it in the bin. Whether you are using a disposable BBQ or just lighting a match to light a candle, give it time to cool down.

Keep batteries separate

Batteries can cause fires, therefore it is important to keep them separate from the rest of your waste. Old, dead batteries can leak hazardous materials which can become a fire risk.

Battery boxes are readily available in supermarkets.

Within the workplace

Don’t let the waste build up

Whether you are collecting waste from a one off DIY project or at a workplace, don’t let it pile up in one area. Make sure that you have a process in place that includes separating it out and disposing of it correctly.

When a large amount of combustible waste is stored in piles for long periods of time, the centre of the pile can heat up and catch fire. If there is then a lot of waste around, the fire will spread further.

Also larger stockpiles are more likely to self heat and combust if stored for a long time. So storing waste in smaller piles will reduce the risk of waste fires.

BONUS TIP: Use fire breaks between the smaller stockpiles to reduce the chances of a fire spreading.

Don’t smoke around waste piles

Discarded cigarettes are often the cause of waste fires. A simple way to avoid setting your waste pile to flames is to smoke elsewhere, and make sure that you discard your cigarette butt properly. This could be putting it in a bucket of sand or water.

If you are a business owner with a designated rubbish area, it is also sensible to have a designated smoking area that is a decent distance away from the waste that is likely to catch fire. Make sure that your smoking area is fully equipped for safe disposal of cigarette ends.

Have space between waste piles

It is advisable that you keep at least 6 metres between stacks of combustible materials and flammable materials. The space can prevent heat sources from coming into contact with anything that could catch fire.

Put security measures in place

Arson is still a big cause of waste fires, so if you have easily accessible piles of rubbish, it is a good idea to have security measures in place. This could be fencing around the area that you collect the waste in, CCTV cameras around or intruder alarms. The measures you choose should be in place at all times.

Check for warning signs

Before a fire ignites, it will smoulder. Keep an eye out for any smouldering, or other signs that a fire might start. Put in place a closing down process where a final check is completed before everyone leaves for the evening. Using a smouldering detector will help make sure that these early signs don’t go undetected.

Out and about

Let disposable BBQs cool down

Picture this, it is a nice sunny day and you are down on the beach with your friends having a BBQ. All is great, but what do you do with the BBQ once you have finished with it? Your reaction might be to cover it in sand to help it cool down. This is not the right thing to do. Covering a heated source in sand will only help retain the heat. This means that when you go to pick it up and put it in the bin, it will still be hot and is likely to set other rubbish on fire.

Instead, you should just put it to the side and give it as much time as possible to cool down by itself. Only once it is completely cold should you put it in the bin.

Don’t have open flames in green spaces

We all know that wood, and trees are highly flammable. So having an open flame in a forest is a bad idea.

Whether you are down in the New Forest or out on a heath, think about your surroundings, and act accordingly.

Don’t leave cigarette ends

If you smoke, don’t flick a cigarette butt into a bush, or drop it on dry grass.

In the summer especially, our local greenland can get very dry, making it more susceptible to catch fire. Even a simple cigarette butt that is still warm could start a fire. If you are a smoker, take a second to think about where you will dispose of the end of your cigarette before lighting up.

Not sure about disposing of your waste?

Commercial Recycling are able to help you dispose of your waste safely. We operate a Man & Van service which is a fully licenced waste collection service that is able to collect hazardous waste, fly tips, house and office clearances, and freezer break downs. Our Man & Van drivers are fully trained to handle waste safely and in a way that will prevent fires.

We also work with Avon Material Supplies to provide a range of waste management services. If you are a business looking for a safe waste storage solution, our commercial wheelie bin services allow you to separate your waste into their waste type, creating smaller and safer collections of waste.

If you are working on a smaller DIY project, through our partnership with AMS we are able to skip bags or skips to help you safely store any waste made by the project.

Whether you are using a commercial wheelie bin, a skip or skip bag, AMS will collect your waste at a time convenient for you and bring it to us where we will separate out any mixed waste and dispose of it.

If you are not sure about your waste disposal, contact us and we can arrange a site visit to discuss how to safely store, or dispose of your rubbish. Give us a call on 01202 579579 or email


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