Wheelie bin fires and inhaling toxic fumes

Wheelie bin storage brings many benefits to residents and refuse collectors but alongside this there are sometimes also unintended negative social impacts.

Unfortunately, wheelie bins are occasionally stolen by people – generally considered to be youths or teenagers – and then set on fire, with fire crews sometimes having stones thrown at them when they arrive to put out the flames. This appears to be a widespread problem as incidents have been reported from Manchester to Rugeley and Sunderland, to name just a few affected areas.

This antisocial behaviour not only impacts the fire service but it also leads to obvious concern and inconvenience for residents and businesses in the vicinity. Additionally, it can have an impact on resident bin storage behaviour, with a recommendation from the fire service to take bins back onto properties as soon as possible after they have been emptied. Finally, it can also influence landlord responsibilities in terms of ensuring adequate bin store distance from buildings to prevent the spread of fire.

Just to illustrate the place of this behaviour in contemporary culture, graffiti featuring a bin fire even appeared on a garage wall in Port Talbot in December 2018. It is thought to have been created by Banksy, the street artist who has painted many satirical and distinctive images all over the UK. This particular artwork appears to link the impact of fires – in this case, in a wheelie bin – with air pollution, likening the ash that falls from the sky to snow.

However, in recent months a new craze has begun where bin fires are being started by youths hoping to inhale the toxic fumes and get high. This is obviously a very dangerous activity because the fumes from burning plastic and other waste may contain carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide and other toxic gases, which can very quickly lead to unconsciousness if inhaled. Once again, this appears to be a problem across the country, from County Durham to Plymouth.

Setting fire to bins to inhale the toxic fumes is taking arson to a whole new level. In order to help prevent this and also to mitigate the impact where it does unfortunately occur, the metroSTOR team will be pleased to help landlords and councils with secure bin storage.

We offer a range of bin enclosures including fire-resistant options suitable for use where there is no option but to locate bins in close proximity to buildings. To ensure Fire Risk Assessment compliance, please talk to our technical team for advice on the correct specification.