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Blaze prompts warning on ‘wishcycling’

Flagstaff Team

Backfiring… Gas cooking cannisters, lighter fluid cans and cambelts are causing dangerous fires in recycling trucks, like this one near the Sunnynook playing fields

Fire fighters rushed to put out a recycling truck fire in Sunnynook, ordering the driver to dump the contents in a nearby car park to prevent any serious harm.

At press time, the cause of the 24 February fire was being investigated, but it was thought to be the result of someone putting the likes of a gas canister or lighter fluid can in the recycling bin, or a car cambelt which wrapped around compacting equipment in the truck.

“Trying to ‘wishcycle’ unwanted items in your kerbside recycling bin like electronic gadgets, motor parts, and building and construction items… can have unintended, and potentially dangerous consequences,” Auckland Council warns in a media release.

Last week’s incident in Sunnynook followed closely after two other recycling truck fires, probably with similar causes, in Otara and Lynfield, in the previous fortnight.

Truck drivers have strict protocols for fires and only dump in a car park or cul-de-sac if Fire and Emergency NZ order them to do so, for fear of risk to the the public or contractors.

Extreme risk… Burning rubbish dumped from a recycling truck onto a Sunnynook car park

“Recycling truck fires could cause serious harm to our staff, contractors or the public, and they are always a costly exercise, both financially and environmentally,” says councillor Richard Hills, chair of the environment and climate change committee. 

“In addition to emergency services being called out, there’s disruption to collection services, the cost of cleaning up the contaminated materials, and then the additional cost of materials having to be disposed of in landfill, instead of being recycled. 

“Then, the recycling truck needs to go through a full service and check before it can be deployed back on the streets.” 

This article originally appeared in the 6 March 2020 edition of the Rangitoto Observer.