Recycling That Went With A Bang

Staff unharmed after blast from fire extinguisher left in recycling bank

Related links

Sign up for email newsletters from

Recycling staff had a lucky escape when a fire extinguisher that had been put in a recycling bank exploded whilst the bank was being emptied.

Fortunately no-one was injured but the incident left the recycling crew shaken but thankful that no-one had been hurt.

The episode highlights the potential risks of placing inappropriate or dangerous waste items in recycling banks.

The explosion happened last Tuesday while the crew were emptying the contents of a recycling bank located in Tonsley Heights into the back of their collection vehicle. As the contents were being compacted inside the truck, the fire extinguisher was ruptured causing it to explode.

Recycling collector Richard Harangozo said:
“We were lucky no-one was hurt. We’d just emptied the contents of the recycling bank into the back of the lorry and pressed the button to squash it all down when there was this almighty bang and this cloud of white powder appeared.

“We do sometimes find things that have been put in recycling banks or orange sacks that shouldn’t be there. I’ve even come across dead cats before but nothing like this. I can’t imagine why anyone would think this is the right way to dispose of an old fire extinguisher even if they genuinely did want to recycle it.”

The incident highlights the growing problem of contaminated recycling banks and sacks. Nearly a fifth of all the recycling sacks collected contain some contaminents, while just under a quarter of the waste deposited in recycling banks cannot be recycled.

This represents a double whammy for council tax payers because there is a cost to have these items removed from the recycling stream and then an additional cost to have them disposed of alongside general waste.

Last year the council had to spend £11m in waste disposal costs. Every one per cent reduction in contamination saves council tax payers more than £21,000 a year.

Recent analysis has shown that the most common forms of contamination are general rubbish, food waste, plastics that can’t be recycled, like carrier bags and clingfilm, unwanted clothing, shredded paper and electrical goods.

The only things that should be recycled in bags or banks are:

• Paper and card/cardboard (excluding shredded paper)
• Glass bottles and jars
• Plastic bottles, pots tubs and trays
• Cans, tins and empty aerosols
• Food/drinks cartons (TetraPaks)

Food residue should be rinsed off before recycling and lids should be removed from bottles. Get full details of what can and can't be recycled at

Environment spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “We are taking steps to ensure that the level of contamination is reduced. This includes putting clearer information on orange banks so that everyone can see what they should and shouldn’t put inside them, and later this month we will be announcing some changes to our doorstep collection service that should also help us reduce this problem.

“What we need more than anything else is the support and co-operation of the public. We need residents to make sure that their recycling is properly sorted so that only the correct items go in the sacks or their neighbourhood recycling banks. The more people that heed this important message, the more money we can save off everyone’s council tax bills.”

March 6, 2013