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Backyard Burning

Information on the problems called by illegal backyard burning, including contact details for reporting backyard burning.

The term "backyard burning" is applied to the uncontrolled burning of waste. Such burning is frequently carried out in backyards and in gardens, but the term also refers to the burning of any waste in open fires, ranges and other solid fuel appliances or in the open. It includes the burning of waste on sites by builders. This term also refers to what are described as rubbish burners, which we see advertised for sale in recent times. Backyard burning is illegal, antisocial and potentially extremely hazardous.

The attraction

There has been a huge increase in backyard burning of waste, which has coincided with increasing waste disposal charges. Some people see it as a way to save money. There is no doubt that some people think that there is no harm in this way of reducing the amount of waste of which they have to dispose. But this is a legitimate form of waste disposal for many reasons.

The problems

Burning used to be seen as a nuisance to the householder because it ruined a neighbour’s washing with smuts. Traditionally waste was made up of simple things like wood, paper and organically produced food waste. However, modern science has changed much of this. The application of chemicals to preserve and enhance things and the widespread use of metals and plastic in most manufacturing items has changed much of what is in our waste today.

Toxic fumes

When we burn most waste items, toxic and dangerous by-products are created. These are not subsequently destroyed by the fire and are emitted into the air we breathe. These pollutants can have profound long-term health implications. Tiny amounts of some pollutants are emitted by the backyard burning of chlorinated products like certain types of plastics and solvents. These are sufficient to have undesirable health effects. They can also contaminate our back gardens when they precipitate out of the air and land on the ground. This type of uncontrolled burning should be avoided at all costs. For example, burning wood that is painted or treated with a preservative can emit very toxic fumes. The same is true when paper, which is plastic coated or contains certain inks, or contains glue used to bind pages together in book form, is burned.

Reduce & reuse

The only real solution is to minimise the amount of waste we produce. We can achieve this through changes in what we buy and by reusing where we can.

We should assess our waste to look for reuse opportunities. We should see if there is any beneficial reuse options for items and materials that would otherwise be recycled. For example, empty containers - are they returnable or reusable elsewhere?


Please do not hesitate to contact Environment Section, Wicklow County Council at Phone: (0404) 20127 should you have any queries on the contents of this notice or wish to report an incident of backyard burning.