Burning of waste

Burning of waste includes the following activities:

  1. Backyard Burning - this is where householders and businesses burn their wastes either on the ground, in a barrel or a mini waste burner/furnace.
  2. Burning of hedge cuttings - this relates to wastes arising from agricultural and landscaping activities where only bushes/hedges, branches are burned. Please click here for details of Controlled Burning
  3. Bonfires - this is an outdoor fire. Many people enjoy bonfires and they have become a traditional part of Halloween. While some people use only wood and suitable materials for their bonfire, in many cases bonfires are used to burn wastes such as furniture, tyres and other wastes.

The burning of waste is illegal and the Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulations 2009 clearly set out the law whereby no waste may be disposed of by burning within your house or even in your garden. The use of waste burners are also illegal. Incidents of burning of waste will be investigated by the Waste Enforcement Team and may lead to prosecution.

One exception to these Regulations is the burning of uncontaminated wood, trees, tree trimmings and brush generated in agricultural clearing. Uncontaminated wood means that it is free of dangerous substances, preservatives, paints or varnishes. Offaly County Council have developed a policy on the disposal of hedges/bushes by burning.

Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulations 2009

There are a number of problems with the burning of waste:

  • The pollution levels from these fires can be extremely high.
  • Not everything that is put on a bonfire actually burns and the areas need to be cleaned up afterwards, often at great expense.
  • Bonfires can be dangerous, particularly with flammable gas containers.
  • They are illegal.
  • Many people (particularly in housing estates) do not actually want bonfires or backyard burning in their area.
  • The green areas in housing estates where bonfires are lit are damaged and usually need to be re-seeded.

In terms of public health, the first point is the most important.  It would be fair to say that many people in Ireland would not welcome an incinerator in their area.  However backyard burning and bonfires are like mini-incinerators and at times like Hallowe’en it is like having thousands of these incinerators all over the country, each of them spewing out poisonous gases.  These range from dioxins (that cause cancer) to greenhouse gases to metals like arsenic, lead and mercury.  Burning of wood coated with paint or preservative also gives rise to very nasty chemicals.

Householders and Businesses should note that all unauthorised burning of waste is illegal and can cause serious danger to health.