Recycling Plant Fire Forces Evacuation

April 12, 2023
A plastics recycling plant in Richmond, Indiana, has been burning for two days, releasing toxic smoke and forcing evacuations of hundreds of residents that lived near the plant.

A plastics recycling plant in Richmond, Indiana, located near the Indiana-Ohio border, has been burning since April 11. The toxic smoke forced evacuations of 2,000 residents that lived within a half-mile of the plant.

The fire occurred at a 14-acre former factory used to store and process plastics and other materials for recycling or resale.

Richmond’s fire chief said the evacuation order would remain in place through April 12 depending on how much progress crews make in putting out the flames. The fire’s cause remains under investigation.

State and federal regulators were at the scene to assess air quality and other environmental impacts. Jason Sewell, the on-scene coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the agency has been doing roving air sampling outside the evacuation area and into part of nearby Ohio, but no toxic compounds have been detected.

He stressed, however, that smoke is harmful to inhale because it contains particulate matter of different sizes and can contain toxic chemicals, and residents should avoid the smoke. Sewell said air sampling would continue in Richmond, a city of 35,000 residents.

The incident also could provide fuel for environmentalists opposed to chemical recycling processes. Chemical Processing reported on the plastic recycling and plastic waste challenges facing the industry worldwide.

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