Living  /  Services  /  Environment  /  Pollution Control  /  Air Quality  /  Burning Waste

Burning Waste

Details of legislation regarding the burning of waste, including farm waste.

The Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulations 2009 (S.I. No 286 of 2009), which came into effect on 27 July 2009, explicitly outlaws the practice of burning waste.

  • It is illegal to burn household waste in a building or anywhere on the property or garden
  • It is illegal to burn builders' waste on building sites
  • It is illegal to burn waste generated by businesses or other commercial concerns
  • It is illegal to use waste burners or any other type of container or devise to burn waste including stoves and incinerators designed to burn waste
  • It is illegal to burn waste even if it is done in a device with a chimney, stack or flue

What is the harm in burning waste?

Backyard burning is very hazardous. When you burn waste in this way, toxins and other pollutants are released into the air close to ground level where they are easily inhaled and they remain at dangerous levels near the ground for a long time. A total of 73% of dioxins (many of which cause cancer) released into the Irish atmosphere are as a result of backyard burning or 'do it yourself' incineration (a further 11% of dioxins comes from accidental building fires). In fact, this kind of burning produces 55 times more dioxins than if it were treated by a licensed modern municipal incinerator.

Some of the pollutants that can be generated uncontrolled burning are:

  • Dioxins and furans - some dioxins cause cancer and other illnesses including skin lesions and birth defects. Dioxins may accumulate in fat tissue in humans and animals
  • Carbon monoxide - small amounts may cause headaches and nausea
  • Styrene - released from the burning of polystyrene. Absorbed through the skin and lungs, high levels damage eyes and mucous membranes, and in the long term affects the central nervous system, causing headaches, fatigue, weakness, and depression
  • Microscopic particles - get deep into the lungs leading to asthma, bronchitis and heart problems
  • Ash may contain mercury, lead, arsenic and other heavy metals, causes heart, kidney and brain damage, and may also accumulate in vegetables grown in soil containing ash

What are the special regulations for farm waste?

Under the Regulations, farmers are required to follow a specified waste hierarchy only permitting the burning of uncontaminated wood, trees, tree trimmings, leaves, brush or other similar wastes generated by agricultural practices as a last resort.

Farmers who feel that they have no alternative to burning waste must notify the local authority in advance of their intention to carry out the disposal and provide information under the Regulations.

The following steps should first be taken to manage agricultural wastes:

  • Reduce waste in accordance with best agricultural practice
  • Reduce waste where possible
  • Recycle waste through shredding, used as compost or wood chippings
  • Salvage waste for use as fuel where practicable

The purpose of these regulations is to abolish the practice of burning waste. An exemption has been made for farmers only as a last resort to burn wastes generated by agricultural practices.

Manage your waste properly

  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle
  • Compost

Wicklow County Council has five recycling centres. You can dramatically reduce the volume of your waste that needs disposal by using these facilities. Contact us for a list of permitted collectors before you give anybody your residual waste for disposal.

Read more:

Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulations 2009 (S.I. No 286 of 2009)