BY MATTHEW CORRIGAN
A few days ago, an item of news caught my attention. A company director from Cheshire had just been jailed. The article very likely passed most people by, but it took me straight back to a warm evening in August 2013…
I watched, mesmerised, from a hillside several miles away. Whatever it was, it was obviously catastrophic. A wide base of flames had formed, tongues licking high into the sky. From this distance, the periodic explosions were muted to a series of dull pops. It almost sounded like bonfire night, but the crazily flashing blue lights racing headlong towards the blaze made it all too obvious it wasn’t.
My first horrified thought was that I was witnessing the aftermath of a ‘plane crash. It was that bad. The spreading flames fuelled a rising column of thick, black smoke. Towering thousands of feet into the air, it soon started to obscure the evening’s full moon, artificially darkening the clear summer sky. High overhead, airliners inbound for Manchester disappeared into its fog and the gathering spectators began to wonder if the airport might close.
Thankfully, my guess was wrong. It wasn’t a crash. Thankfully, too, nobody was injured on the night. Next day, as the dust quite literally began to settle, the damage started to become apparent. The still-burning fire had destroyed a recycling storage depot. It would burn for forty-one more days, spewing vast clouds of sickly yellow smoke across the counties of Cheshire and Greater Manchester and causing the partial closure of the M60 motorway.
The only related death went unreported, though this might have been because it was only the usual one: The death of common sense.
The second major fire at such a plant in as many months (it followed the so-called Great Fire of Smethwick, allegedly caused by a sky lantern), the Junction 25 Recycling Plant at Bredbury, Stockport fit into a depressing pattern. Waste ‘management’ facilities across the UK catch fire at an alarming rate.* Regardless of their causes, any fool can see that the storing of large amounts of highly combustible materials in such a way is a thoroughly foolish endeavour.
Once upon a time, local councils used to dispose of waste. They sent it for landfill or controlled incineration. Then along came Global Warming. It was decided that the tried-and-tested methods that had worked for years were bad. Our hectoring politicians delivered innumerable patronising sermons. In order to reduce the release of harmful gases into the atmosphere it was decreed that all rubbish must be recycled.
Unfortunately, our society produces rubbish at a far greater rate than the recycling plants can manage. Yet, in an idiotically knee-jerk response to a problem that may or may not exist, that consideration was not deemed important. So waste is piled up. And up. And ever up.
Barry Kilroe, a director of J25 Recycling Limited, was jailed over the Bredbury fire on March 31st following a lengthy investigation. He was sentenced to fifteen months after pleading guilty to ten charges, each of which related to the unlawful operation of three separate waste sites. In all likelihood, he will eventually be held in a Category C or D prison for seven months or so before returning to the comfort of his (very) smart Alderley Edge home.
It’s hard to blame Kilroe really; it wasn’t too bad a trade-off. Blame really should be reserved for the cretinous politicians who let it happen. By leaping enthusiastically aboard the little-understood bandwagon of global warming they allowed an industry filled with opportunist crooks to positively flourish.
God only knows how much environmental damage was caused by Bredbury’s Junction 25 Recycling plant going up in smoke – and that’s real, actual, measurable environmental damage that could be seen, touched and tasted in the air. It would be refreshing if those responsible would pause to consider the irony of what they’ve done. They have managed to achieve exactly what they set out to prevent. Refreshing but sadly unlikely.
Who needs to think when there is preaching to be done?