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 building sites. This term also refers to the use of what are commonly described as rubbish burners or domestic waste incinerators.

Burning household waste either in an open fire or in a back yard 'incinerator' is not the solution to reducing your waste. This is because you are burning at low temperatures, which is damaging your health, our environment and causes nuisance to your neighbours. Almost three quarters of the dioxins emitted to the air in Ireland come from the uncontrolled, low temperature burning of waste so please, not in Your back yard!

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 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 be the cause of emitting very toxic fumes. The same is true when paper, which is plastic coated or contains certain inks, or glue used to bind pages together in book form, is burned.

Roscommon County Council is aware of the tradition of Bonfire Night and advises those organising bonfires to only burn untreated wood. Link to further Information on Bonfire Night / Halloween  

Potential Pollutants Caused by Backyard Burning and their Potential  Health Effect

Potential   Pollutants Caused by Backyard Burning

Potential Health Effect

Carcinogenic Dioxins

Cancer causing

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's)

respiratory/heart illnesses, kidney/liver damage

Carbon   monoixide (CO)

nausea & headaches if inhaled

Hexachlorobenzene (HCB)

cancer, kidney & liver damage

Nitrogen Oxides (Nox)

respiratory problems

Microscopic particles

bronchitis, asthma & heart attacks

Ash (it contains mercury/lead/arsenic)

heart problems, kidney & brain damage

The Law

Burning of waste is prohibited under Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulations 2009 as amended, the Waste Management Act 1996 (Section 32.1), the Air Pollution Act 1987 and the Protection of the Environment Act 2003

The Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulations 2009 came into force on the 29th July 2009. There has been a lot of confusion regarding the legislation surrounding the burning of waste and the new Regulations clarify many of the issues. The main points of the new legislation are as follows however this explanation does not act as a substitute for the law.

  • It is an offence to burn any type of waste including garden waste.

  • The use of devices to burn waste such as the "domestic waste incinerators" which are often advertised for sale is an offence.

  • It is an offence to burn household waste by use of stoves or open fires.

  • There is an exemption to allow farmers to dispose by burning of untreated/uncontaminated wood, trees, trimmings, leaves, bushes or similar materials generated by agricultural practices as a very last resort subject to the completion of a Statutory Declaration Form. (This exemption does not apply unless the waste is generated by agricultural practices so it would not apply to leaves/grass/bushes in a domestic garden for example).

  • The onus is on farmers to investigate all other more environmentally friendly methods of treatment of their green waste such as reduction, reuse, and recycling by shredding, composting or wood chipping before disposal by burning.

  • The exemption applies when all other options of disposal of the green waste generated by agricultural practices are found not to be practicable or economically viable.

  • The farmers (holder of the waste) will have to apply to the local authority and sign a statutory notice in advance of the proposed burning of such waste.

  • Strict conditions apply when using burning as a means of disposal of green waste (generated by agricultural practices) such as limiting nuisance and protection of human health and not causing environmental pollution.

  • The use of untreated or uncontaminated wood waste and other similar materials can be used in barbeques for the purpose of cooking food.

  • Burning of untreated or uncontaminated wood waste or similar materials may take place at events as may be determined locally by the local authority.

If you wish to report burning that is taking place or wish to talk to someone in relation to backyard burning then you should contact Roscommon County Council on 0906637100 or email environment@roscommoncoco.ie.