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Burn, baby, burn

Burn, baby, burn

Burn Baby Burn


Back in the old days, people would burn waste in their backyards. This could be as a massive bonfire or in a small metal basket (perfect for warming the hands and toasting marshmallows), both of which present rather nice images of nostalgia. However, manmade fires are a burning issue (*chuckle*). The main point we want to make is “don’t burn waste”, but it would probably help if we explained why. So, to elaborate…

Environmental impact

-- Burning waste results in the release of harmful gases, as well as choking dust and toxic grit.
-- Smoke can cause problems for neighbours, from breathing problems and allergies to coating their homes and washing in a layer of dirt, not to mention the smell!
-- Dark smoke from rubber, plastics, oils and paints are especially hazardous to the health of humans and animals.
-- Even ash can contain dangerous chemicals, which are then absorbed into the ground when it rains, posing a threat to grass, plants and trees.

It’s a flippin’ waste!

-- You know how we go on about reduce, reuse and recycle? Burning things until they’re nothing but dust doesn’t really fit this mantra. Once something has been burnt, we can never use it again, simple as that.

Think about the little critters

-- All fires damage the local landscape at least a little bit. Even if it's your back garden, a fire on the bare ground will make it uninhabitable for everything from hedgehogs to earthworms.

The police and courts don’t like it

-- Most types of waste are illegal to burn, or at least without a permit.
-- Ever heard of the Clean Air Act? If you burn trade or commercial waste and it releases dark smoke, you’ll find yourself with a £20,000 fine.
-- Heard of Environmental Permitting Regulations? Manage waste illegally and you could get an even bigger fine of £50,000!
-- So you're burning stuff, perhaps even legally, and the smoke happens to drift over a highway. That’s breaking the law and you could get in very serious trouble if reported or a patrol car happens to be passing by.

What about Bonfire Night?

-- That’s the exception to the rule, but not without its own set of rules. You can burn clean, non-commercial waste at traditional cultural events and on small campfires, but it must also be safe, secure and use suitable materials.

Think before you burn

It is legal to burn some waste, but our response would be: “Why?”

After all, almost everything can be recycled these days, or reused in some way. Even the most unwanted rubbish might be useful to someone, such as a scrap store, theatre or art college. So before you fetch the matches and risk incurring the wrath of the neighbours and local constabulary, maybe consider a trip to your local waste management centre instead.


To find out more about burning waste, check out this Environment Agency pamphlet

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