Are Plant Fires Preventable?
03-06-2009
A total of seven fires have been recorded in 2009, which is both a record number, with the latest in the most modern Western Australia MRF which may exceed $11 million and take up to a year to rebuild assuming member councils agree.
 
MRFs comingled materials have always been open to abuse as a cheap way for disposal of hazardous material. This is exactly why export environmental inspection, at both origin and destinations is becoming stricter. Every respected international report proves that comingling of waste materials (which have nothing in common with each other) is more expensive and hazardous to process. It can be argued that there is a saving with the number of MGBs and possibly trucks, even though the same volume of materials apply. What cannot be argued is that bigger is not cheaper nor better, and if Government wish to add value to recovered materials, then they better go back to cheaper source separation and start to educate the masses and follow Europe who have been leaders for the past two decades.
 
Low materials values and high labour costs have made materials processing expensive. As contamination increases, mechanical processing cannot remove all prohibitives, so the processing risks become greater.  Consequently, more fires are occurring, including document destruction, when shredding has always been prone to metal sparking causing serious paper dust fires.
 
Fires mean higher insurance premiums. OH&S should look at current processing risks and ongoing health issues when process workers in Australia do not even wear face masks, yet can be breathing in hazardous fumes and even glass particles without even knowing it.
 
These high risks are preventable and require urgent Government action as this condition remains serious. Is Government only interested in more money for consolidated revenue from landfill fees which increase as more materials from MRFs are diverted to landfill at someone else's expense?