Resource Recycling News

Fires sparked at MRFs in Milwaukee, Boston

Firefighters tend to a blaze at a Casella recycling facility. | Boston Fire Department

A large MRF in Milwaukee and a commercial recycling facility in Boston caught fire last week, resulting in major facility damage at one and two hospital visits at the other. 

According to coverage from CBS 58, a May 31 fire at Republic Services’ MRF, which serves Milwaukee and 26 surrounding towns, will cause “significant downtime.” The MRF handles materials from about 280,000 households. 

Rick Meyers, manager of Milwaukee Sanitation Services, told local reporters that the damage was severe and still being evaluated. Inspectors have to finish assessing the structural integrity of the building, and then Republic has to see what equipment was damaged. 

“We don’t yet know the full extent of the damage, but it is a little more severe than we anticipated or hoped,” Meyers said. “So we’re probably looking at significant downtime for the facility.”

Republic is still planning to collect recycling from the service areas and send them to Madison or Chicago facilities. Normally in such situations, materials would be sent to a WM facility in Germantown, Wis., but that facility is currently down for construction. 

The cause of the fire is yet to be determined, but it started around 2 p.m. May 31 and took nearly 24 hours for firefighters to fully extinguish. Milwaukee Fire Chief Aaron Lipski told CBS 58 that firefighters have responded to the recycling plant in the past, but this was the worst fire he’d seen at the facility.

Beantown blaze

In Boston, a fire at a Casella Waste Systems commercial building started late in the evening of May 30 and sent a firefighter and worker to the hospital with minor injuries. The facility is back on-line, according to a statement from Casella to Resource Recycling. 

The company thanked the Boston Fire Department “for their efforts in ensuring there were no major injuries and the damage to the facility was minimal.” 

The two-alarm fire started around 11 p.m. and required fire crews to cut holes through the walls to access the flames, according to Boston 25 News. Most of the fire was controlled by midnight, but crews remained on the scene for several more hours monitoring hot spots. 

Casella noted in its statement that while there is no official determination for the cause of the fire, “it does shine a light on the dangers that waste and recycling workers face each day, many of which are avoidable.”

The company reminded people not to dispose of lithium batteries in household trash and recycling. 

“The dangers posed by the improper disposal of these batteries is increasing as their usage is prevalent in everything from laptops and cellphones to light up shoes and birthday cards,” the company noted. “The waste and recycling industry experienced nearly 400 reported facility fires confirmed to be caused by lithium batteries in 2022. The potential for these fires puts our drivers, our facility operators, the public and our planet at risk.” 

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