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Burning rubbish

Burning rubbish can cause localised air pollution and annoy neighbours. Follow the guidelines to avoid causing nuisance to others, or contact your local council and find alternative ways to dispose of your waste.

Problems associated with burning rubbish

Burning rubbish producing unpleasant smells, fumes or nuisance smoke is a matter for Environmental Health within the relevant local council.

Any fire which is burning out of control and is a risk to life or property should be reported to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service immediately - using the 999 Emergency telephone number if necessary.

What's wrong with burning rubbish?

Burning rubbish can lead to the following:

  • it adds to air pollution
  • burning garden waste produces smoke, especially if it is damp and smouldering
  • burning plastic, rubber or painted material not only creates an unpleasant smell but also produces a range of poisonous compounds
  • it will also add to the general background level of air pollution
  • it causes harmful health effects
  • smoke may cause problems for asthmatics, bronchitis sufferers, people with heart conditions and children
  • it causes annoyance to neighbours
  • the smoke, soot, and smells from fires are the subject of many complaints to local councils
  • smoke prevents your neighbours from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging washing out, and reduces visibility in the neighbourhood and roads
  • it is a potential safety risk
  • fire can spread to fences or buildings and cans are a hazard when rubbish is burned
  • piles of garden waste are often used as a refuge by animals, so look out for hibernating wildlife and sleeping pets

Other ways to dispose of garden waste

There are many other ways to get rid of your garden waste:

  • you can make compost from your garden waste
  • your local council may run composting schemes such as the reduced-cost compost bins
  • your council may collect garden waste for a small charge
  • use a shredder to reduce small branches and twigs to chippings which you can spread on the garden as a mulch - to reduce weeds and maintain soil moisture

Guidelines for burning rubbish

If burning is the most practical option for disposing of your garden waste, follow these guidelines to avoid causing serious nuisance:

  • only burn dry material
  • never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres, or anything containing plastic, foam or paint
  • never use old engine oil, meths or petrol to light the fire or encourage it
  • avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions - smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days and in the evenings
  • be considerate to your neighbours - if it is windy, smoke may be blown into neighbours gardens and across roads
  • avoid burning when air pollution in your area is high or very high - check the weather forecast, or the air quality website
  • Weather forecasts for Northern Ireland (MET Office website)
  • Pollution levels in your neighbourhood (UK Air Quality website)

Report waste crime

Dumping or burning waste where it's not allowed, or allowing others to do so, is a criminal offence. You can find out more about waste crime and how you can report it in the following link:

More useful links