A new Vancouver fire bylaw has been submitted for approval by city council.
The proposed 2019 regulations include a ban on outdoor dumpsters made of plastic.
“Due to an increase in the number of solid waste container, or dumpster, fires in the downtown district, the fire risk when the dumpster itself is constructed of plastic is also increasing,” assistant fire chief Rick Cheung wrote in a report to council.
Cheung noted that a fire involving a plastic dumpster “can easily be a much larger fire because the container itself will be burning”.
“In the last 5 years, the fire department responded to approximately 1200 outdoor fires involving dumpers and abandoned mattresses located adjacent to dumpsters,” the assistant fire chief wrote.
According to Cheung, city staff estimate that 10 percent of dumpsters in the city are made entirely of plastic, while 13 percent of dumpsters made of other materials have plastic lids.
Cheung said that solid waste containers with a capacity of over 1,500 litres should be made of non-combustible materials, particularly steel.
“Plastic dumpsters located outdoors will no longer be permitted to be used in the City,” Cheung wrote in his report included in council agenda Wednesday (June 12). “This By-law provision will also apply to any dumpster located inside a building but left unattended outside at any time.”
Steel dumpsters with plastic lids would be permitted if the containers are placed in a “secured fenced enclosure”.
"Staff recognize that prohibiting plastic lids may be a hardship for many citizens because of the weight of steel lids and because of the noise impact caused by the lids slamming when open or shut after each use," Cheung explained.
Cheung also wrote that staff propose exempting certain business locations from the ban on plastic dumpsters.
“In the circumstance that industry can demonstrate that the use of plastic bins is the only method to service a customer’s location, and if it can be shown that plastic bins do not create a fire hazard, the Fire Chief may issue a site-specific permit to allow the use of plastic bins,” Cheung noted.
In such cases, a site plan must show the location of the outdoor waste container. It should be at least three metres away from any building or combustible structure, and secured against unauthorized movement.