By Steve Ross, Wareham Store Manager

Enjoying a BBQ with friends and family is a classic activity enjoyed by many of us each year. With summer just around the corner, these will likely become a frequent addition in many back gardens which is why I’m so proud to be a part of Co-op’s new Put Me Out campaign. This has been designed to raise awareness of the importance of safe and responsible use of instant BBQs.

I’m sure we can all recall the news reports from last summer. The haunting images of huge swathes of forest and moorlands burning out of control and putting many lives at risk as the flames were tackled. Generally, millions of people enjoy BBQing and use them responsibly, but some of these fires were blamed on the misuse of instant BBQs.

This really struck a chord with me as I know just how quickly things can turn dangerous. For 15 years, I’ve been a part time firefighter where I was required to be within four minutes of the station and could be called out to support at any time. Now, alongside my role as a store manager, I continue to spend my evenings and weekends at Hamworthy fire station working for Dorset and Wiltshire fire and rescue service.

In 2020, I was one of the huge team of firefighters who tackled the flames in the Wareham Forest fire. This was one of the largest fires seen in the UK and took over 10 days to fully extinguish. In fact it was so large, we had to draft in support from neighbouring counties and even needed the assistance of a helicopter from South Wales to drop water on it. It was definitely a frightening time, not to mention a tiring couple of weeks.

Following conversations with my Area Manager, I got in touch with a number of teams in the Support Centre and became involved in the Put Me Out Campaign. It’s important that our customers, colleagues and members can all enjoy delicious, barbecued food without putting our local communities at risk.

Co-op Instant BBQs are different to others that are available as they’re FSC certified and also use Fair Trade charcoal certified by Traidcraft. Through launching the Put Me Out campaign, we’re going one step further leading the way in the market and encouraging greater safe and responsible use of the products. We’ve done this by redesigning the packaging on all our Instant BBQ to clearly display prominent safety and warning messages which remind customers to “Put Me Out” by extinguishing with water after use.

I think this is definitely a step in the right direction and will help prevent future fires occurring. We’ve also received support from the National Fire Chiefs Council who agree that banning the sale of instant BBQs isn’t the right solution, but educating people on using them safely is vital.

When using our instant BBQs there are a few really important things to remember:

  1. Always place the BBQs safely, on a hard, heat resistant surface like bricks and in a well-ventilated space. If you’re not cooking up a storm in your own garden, you must make sure you’re in an authorised outdoor environment and not in areas certified with Public Space Protection orders  
  2. Extinguish the BBQs with water after you’ve used them – remember to Put Me Out like the packaging explains
  3. Dispose of the BBQs responsibly when you’re finished – the cardboard and metal used in them is widely recyclable
  4. Never use a makeshift BBQ as these are unpredictable and can pose a much greater risk

So, whether you’ve already planned an alfresco dinner or maybe a burst of warm weather means you decided to BBQ on a whim, hopefully this helps.

Join the conversation! 8 Comments

  1. Maybe you could sell them with a bottle of water to extinguish the fire.
    Unfortunately I would still like to see them banned.
    Is there an age limit on them as well?

    Reply
    • Customers and the wider public should never start a fire of any kind as a fire in the open can easily get out of control, and the advice is if you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately. Don’t attempt to tackle fires that can’t be put out with a bucket of water. Leave the area as soon as possible and dial 999.
      We, like the National Fire Chiefs Council, do not think a ban would solve the problem as we anticipate that people may try to use their own makeshift griddles which could be extremely dangerous. Paul Hedley, National Fire Chiefs Council lead for wildfires, said: “We support Co-op’s move – adding clear warnings along with simple messaging on how to dispose of these barbecues is an effective way to prevent fires.”
      Co-op age restricts all sources of ignition such as matches, cigarette lighters and lighter fluid to 16 years old.

      Reply
  2. Great campaign guys, could you please also warn about the dangers of leaving/burying on the beach?

    Reply
    • Thank you. Our on pack messaging outlines the fact that all instant barbecues must be properly extinguished after use with water and disposed of responsibly in recycle bins. The metal and paper/cardboard elements used in Co-op instant barbecues are widely recyclable.

      Reply
  3. This is brilliant news! Well done to all involved.
    When can we expect to see the new packaging in stores?

    Reply
  4. While I agree with the efforts being made to make using these ‘instant’ (‘disposable’ and ‘single use’ are other words) bbqs safer, you must understand that as long as these things are available for sale, people will keep using them on plastic or wooden picnic tables either melting them, scorching them or setting fire to them. They will also put them straight on the grass and not use rocks with the possibility of setting fire to the grass and having it spread.
    No matter what instructions are written on these bbqs, they will just get left behind for the wind to blow embers anywhere and start a fire perhaps after the diners are safely at home. They will not be put out and cooled down safely after use.
    They will also be left in situ after use for some volunteer to pick up a while later and have to deal with the filthy mess.
    Ecologically, these things generally get used only once resulting in aluminium going straight to landfill as it will be too filthy to recycle.
    If people took reusable bbqs away with them to use, it wouldn’t be too much more effort and there is more chance of them being looked after purely because they are more robust, reusable items that cost a bit of money.
    I am disappointed that you are actively encouraging the use of these single use bbqs. As long as they are in use, moorland fires will be caused by them being incorrectly used.

    Reply
    • It’s really important to remember that millions of instant barbecues are sold every year and on the whole are enjoyed by a huge amount of people, some of whom won’t be able to buy larger and more expensive barbecues.

      Our Put Me Out on-pack messaging forms part of a wider consumer campaign encouraging safe and responsible use of instant barbeques, which will outline the fact that all instant barbecues must be properly used, extinguished after use and disposed of correctly. Co-op’s campaign will include information in stores (on till screens, shelf points and in-store radio), in the Co-op’s own magazine and across its social media channels. There will be a steady drip-feed of safety messaging across the summer to try and educate as many consumers as possible.

      We, like the National Fire Chiefs Council, do not think a ban would solve the problem as we anticipate that people may try to use their own makeshift griddles which could be extremely dangerous. Paul Hedley, National Fire Chiefs Council lead for wildfires, said: “We support Co-op’s move – adding clear warnings along with simple messaging on how to dispose of these barbecues is an effective way to prevent fires.

      Regards littering, this is an antisocial problem and sadly we can’t force the general public to use bins. Co-op regularly supports Keep Britain Tidy campaigns to remind the public on how damaging litter can be for the environment.
      Co-op instant barbecues are fully recyclable (the metal and cardboard elements), and all charcoal in the range is FSC certified and also Fair Trade, as certified by Traidcraft, which helps to fund life improving projects in Namibia.

      Reply

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