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Rules and Regulations of Burning Rubbish: A Complete Guide

We know it can be tempting to light a bonfire in your back garden to get rid of all the rubbish when waste collection services aren’t available. While it’s not illegal to do so, you should be aware of certain rules and regulations before lighting up a fire. We have compiled a list of everything you need to know about the rules and regulations of burning rubbish.

These rules are in place to ensure everyone’s wellbeing. Bonfires can quickly go wrong and cause uncontrollable fires if poorly planned. Besides, they can pollute the air with harmful smoke, fumes, and particles.

This blog will explain everything you need to know about burning rubbish. It will give you all the information you need to avoid causing a nuisance or harm to anyone while getting rid of waste. This blog contains the following information regarding burning rubbish –

Table of Contents

Is It Legal to Burn Rubbish in Your Garden?

Generally yes, you can burn rubbish in your garden.  However, there are some rules you need to follow. Firstly, you must not cause a nuisance to your neighbours. Secondly, you should restrict the rubbish you burn to dry garden waste, clean timber, cardboard or paper. Lastly, you should not burn anything that might create a safety hazard. For example, you should not burn plastics, rubber, paint and oils. Because burning such materials on an open fire can be toxic and harmful to the environment. 

However, some environmental laws make it an offence to cause fumes or smoke to be released into the air. Because they are harmful to human health and affect other people.  So you should know about those before burning rubbish in your garden.

What Happens When You Burn Rubbish?

Have you ever thought about what are the aftermaths of burning rubbish? Well, now you get to find out. Burning rubbish doesn’t just get rid of the waste. It has other outcomes too. The following may happen when you burn rubbish –

  • Increase in air pollution
  • Produce smoke from damp, smouldering waste
  • A risk to safety (like fire may spread to the fences or close buildings)
  • Produce toxic compounds
  • Harmful health effects – for example, It can affect children and people with asthma, bronchitis or any heart conditions
  • Complaints to the council about smoke, soot and smell when it bothers neighbours
  • Reduced visibility in the nearby area and on roads
  • Wound or kill hibernating wildlife and sleeping pets (if they’re hidden in garden waste)

Burn Rubbish

What are The Laws on Garden Fires?

Burning rubbish can affect air quality. But there are no specified laws that prohibit burning rubbish. While it’s not illegal to burn waste in the garden, there are some rules in place. These regulations help to avoid fire and smoke hazards. They also make sure burning waste does not bother your neighbours.

Under this Act, it is an offence to dispose of rubbish in any way that may cause pollution to the environment. Or if it causes harm to people’s health, such as by burning it. This means you must not burn waste that can create excessive smoke and fumes. Burning can be a statutory nuisance, and you will be fined accordingly.

For the smoke or fume to count as a statutory nuisance, it must fulfil the following –

  • Unreasonably and substantially hinder the use or enjoyment of a premises like home or others.
  • Injurious to health or likely to injure health.

If smoke from burning rubbish is recurrent and bothersome to people. This can result in an ‘abatement notice’. Failure to abide by an abatement notice is a criminal offence. As a result, they can be prosecuted via a Magistrates’ Court. Failing to adhere to an abatement notice can lead to a fine of £5,000 imposed on those responsible.

Under section 161A of this Act, you cannot allow smoke from a fire to drift across a nearby road. Heavy smoke on the road can be dangerous for people. You will face a fine if it appears to be a risk to traffic or if it leads to injury.

Suppose there is any damage committed by fire. In that case, the offence is charged as arson with intent or being reckless. Because the life of another would be thereby endangered. As per this Act, if anyone or anything is endangered by fire, the person responsible for the fire can be charged.

Your local authority can help you with more information and advice in detail, regarding burning rubbish in the garden.

What Time Can You Burn Rubbish in Your Garden?

Now that you know more about burning rubbish in a garden, you can do it while being safe. Besides, there are no set times or days when you are permitted to have a bonfire. So legally, you can do this any time of day or night. It is recommended to plan your burning of rubbish in a way that it finishes burning at dusk. Early morning and early evening are also a good time for burning waste. Since these are the times when your neighbours are less likely to be affected.

Even after choosing a courteous time, you should pay attention to whether the fire can cause a nuisance. For instance, consider the below-mentioned situations 

  • Do your neighbours have their laundry outside? 
  • Is it a hot day, or do they have their windows open? 
  • Do they have guests over? Or anyone with health conditions?
  • Do the neighbours plan to use their garden at the time of the fire? 
  • Is it a particularly windy day?

Consider going over or leave them a message to let your neighbours know your plans. This way, you can work around each other’s schedule. Prior notice can give them time to be prepared for the fire. Moreover, it will prevent them from calling 999. Without prior knowledge, they might think it’s an emergency and call for help. 

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What are The Fire Pit Rules and Regulations?

Outdoor fire laws in the UK are very lenient. Burning usually occurs in a burn barrel, home-made burn box, wooden stove, outdoor boiler, or open pit. Air emissions from burning are released directly to the atmosphere without being treated or filtered. That’s why burning is not usually recommended. But if you do intend to burn, you must follow the below-mentioned rules.

  • You must make sure that the smoke from your bonfire doesn’t drift across a road. As it can cause danger to the traffic on the road.
  • You must not burn anything that could cause air pollution.
  • You also should not burn anything that can be harmful to public health. 

What Type of Rubbish is Okay to Burn?

While it is not illegal to burn, you still shouldn’t burn everything. Certain things are comparatively  less harmful to burn. 

  • You should only burn dried materials, such as paper and untreated wood.
  • Dry garden waste is also safe to burn—for example, dry leaves and old plant cuttings. 
  • Other dry waste that doesn’t have any chemical or similar substances in them.

type of rubbish holder

What Type of Rubbish You Should Not Burn?

Your bonfire must not cause pollution or harm anyone. Which means you need to avoid burning some materials that can generate excessive smoke or toxic fumes. The particles that are produced by the fire can spread in the surrounding and linger in the air. This can cause nuisance or even health issues for some people, such as triggering asthma or nausea. That is why you should not burn the following rubbish –

  • You shouldn’t burn household waste, like food or any plastic packaging.
  • Don’t burn plastic or polystyrene, aerosol, tyre, canister, painted or treated wood, or anything that contains foam or paint. 
  • Do not burn damp waste because this will create more smoke.
  • Don’t use oil or petrol to fuel the fire. Because it can get out of control within a short period and cause damage
  • Also, you must not burn garden waste if it is green or damp. For example, recent hedge or tree trimmings because burning them will produce excessive smoke. The picture given below shows exactly what you should avoid while burning garden waste.

burning rubbish

Also, you should know that you’re not permitted to burn waste from the following –

  • Rubbish from other households such as from a neighbour 
  • Waste from a trade or any business activities. 

To do so, you will need an environmental permit from proper authorities and maintain the rules provided by them. Also, make sure your area is not in a smoke-free zone by checking with your local council.

In some cases burning garden waste can be a more practical choice. For instance, biochar made from burning garden waste is very beneficial. To burn garden waste safely, you should follow these steps below. 

  • First, you need to adhere to previously mentioned rules in fire pit rules and regulations and the laws on garden fires
  • You can use an electric firelighter, burn barrel or incinerator to burn your garden waste. But if you need to light a fire regularly, it is worth having a permanent fire pit in your garden. 
  • If you have a large amount of garden waste, try to burn them gradually, so that you don’t create a massive fire or risk hurting hidden animals.
  • You can also use a shredder or chipper if there is a good deal of garden waste. You can hire a shredder or buy one for yourself if you have a lot of garden waste to burn regularly.
  • Remember to always clear the area around the fire so that the fire doesn’t spread. 
  • Lastly, always have some sand or loose soil nearby to control the fire. An even better option is having a fire extinguisher handy.  Take this Fire Extinguisher Professional Video Training to learn how to use a fire extinguisher properly. This can help prevent casualties in case the fire gets out of control.

To know more about burning garden waste safely, you can talk to the local council about safe ways to dispose of garden waste.


Also, you should know that you’re not permitted to burn waste from the following –

  • Rubbish from other households such as from a neighbour 
  • Waste from a trade or any business activities. 

To do so, you will need an environmental permit from proper authorities and maintain the rules provided by them. Also, make sure your area is not in a smoke-free zone by checking with your local council.

What Are Some Alternatives to Burning Rubbish?

So, how do you get rid of garden rubbish without burning it? Because many waste materials are not safe to burn, and you may not be able to burn all the rubbish. For example, if you don’t have enough room in your garden. Therefore, you should be aware of alternative methods for getting rid of the rubbish.

1. Use Council Bins

Instead of resorting to burning household waste, use council bins. You can use your general waste and recycling bins, as well as food waste bin if you have them. Even during the COVID-19 situation, council waste collections are operating as usual. Your local council may even offer large waste item collection in your area, such as old furniture.  Make sure to check their website to see what kind of options they have before you resort to burning.

Council Bins

2. Waste Collection Services

Other than local council services, there are many private waste collection services available. They provide home collection services such as rubbish removal and household recycling. You can avail of these services instead of burning rubbish and causing a nuisance. Before you use a private collection company, make sure to check they have a waste carrier licence to remove waste.

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3. Brown Garden Waste Bin

Many local authorities provide a particular bin for garden wastes and collect it as part of their household collection scheme. ​Items that are allowed in your brown bin are –

  • Grass mowings
  • Hedge cuttings
  • Weeds
  • Leaves
  • Pruning
  • Dead flowers
  • Christmas trees (real trees only, and chop up to ensure it fits in your bin)

It is necessary to ensure all of your garden waste fits inside your bin.  You should chop up hedge cuttings and pruning to make sure they fit in the bin. Because this helps in the collection process of waste.

4. Use Your Local Tips and Recycling Centres

Before starting a fire, you should first consider taking the waste to your local tip or recycling centre. They can handle it in a much safer and eco-friendly way.  Recycling waste is safer for the environment than getting rid of it by burning it.


Naturally, this might not be a viable option during the current COVID-19 lockdown, as many tips and recycling centres have been closed. Despite this, you should follow guidance about avoiding bonfires. It’s obviously not ideal having a bunch of garbage-filled bags lying around. But we all must be patient and wise about what we do during this difficult time.

recycling tips and ideas

5. Use a Shredder or Chipper for Garden Waste

If you have a lot of vegetation around you, you are more likely to have a good deal of garden waste. In such a situation, you may want to purchase garden waste chippers or a shredder. This will enable you to fit more into the bin and keep it out of the way in a bag. This also makes drying it and burning it easier. You can even reuse it in your garden or compost it.

6. Composting

You should not burn domestic waste products such as food. So if you want to get rid of it other than in your general bin, consider composting it instead. This can work as an excellent fertilizer for your garden and save your money on fertilisers. You can also add shredded garden waste to your compost bin.

 If you decide to compost, do your research about what type of composting you’re going to produce. Also, on how to keep pests out and what you should and shouldn’t add to it. For example, a worm compost bin is suitable for fruits, vegetables, paper and cardboard wastes. But it isn’t ideal for cooked food, meat, or any dairy products.

compost bin

Some Tips for Burn Rubbish?

To ensure your bonfire is as safe and environmentally friendly as possible, here are some steps you can take:

  • Ensure your fire is at a safe distance from buildings, sheds, fences, trees, overhead cables, and anything else that could catch fire. 
  • You should also ensure the fire doesn’t cause smoke to drift into a road.
  • Do not leave the fire unattended at any time.
  • Keep children and pets should be kept away from the bonfire. 
  • Keep a bucket of water or an extinguisher nearby if you have one. Sand or loose soil also works. This is to help put out the fire when finished or if it starts getting out of control. Fire Extinguisher Professional Video training can prove to be very helpful in such a situation.
  • Start with a small fire. You can add more material to the fire as you go when you are confident you can control it.
  • Pay attention to wind speed and direction. Think about your neighbours – if it is windy, smoke may be blown into their gardens or even across roads.
  • Do not light a fire outside on a damp day.
  • Look out for animals or wildlife because they often hibernate or take refuge in piles of garden waste.
  • Make sure to extinguish the fire fully and do not leave it smouldering. Douse any remaining embers with water or cover them with soil. Otherwise, the fire might restart.
  • Avoid lighting up a fire to burn rubbish when air pollution in your area is high. Check the weather forecast or the air quality website first.
  • If at any point you think the fire is getting out of control, and you can’t extinguish it, call 999 immediately.

Fire Extinguisher Professional Video Training
In this Fire Extinguisher Professional Video Training course, you will learn about the different types of fire extinguishers,
Fire Extinguisher Professional Video Training
In this Fire Extinguisher Professional Video Training course, you will learn about the different types of fire extinguishers,

Should I Notify Anyone About My Bonfire?

While there are no legal requirements to notify anyone about a bonfire,  you should still be considerate and let your neighbours know. You may also want to tell your local authority on a non-emergency number. They are often alerted to fires that are thought to be an emergency but turn out to be controlled bonfires or land clearance. Giving them prior warning ensures they aren’t bothered unnecessarily.

For example, many city councils or local authorities ask that you notify them if you’re planning to have a sizeable bonfire in your garden or on another property. They also ask to be informed about the exact location and time of the fire and a contact number for whoever will be responsible for the site.

How to Report a Fire Emergency?

When a fire is going out of control and is a risk to life or property, you should contact the Fire and Rescue Service straightaway.  Call 999 if it needs immediate action. 

Knowledge about fire safety comes in handy when there is a fire emergency. We recommend taking this course on Fire Safety and Fire Emergency Evacuation for comprehensive understanding on fire safety and regulations.

How can you report a neighbour burning rubbish?

Do you have a neighbour who burns rubbish on a regular basis, and it’s causing you problems? And you are wondering, ‘how do I report a neighbour burning rubbish?’. You call the emergency number – 999 or 112. It’s toll-free, so you don’t have to think about the charge. Give them the postcode and describe the situation as clearly as possible.

Closing notes

It is very important to know the rules and regulations of burning rubbish before starting a fire. It will ensure everyone’s safety and wellbeing. While a bonfire is aesthetically pleasing, it has some negative aspects as well. You can choose whatever is more practical for you. But if you decide to burn rubbish, we recommend you take this course for training on fire safety.  This will give you comprehensive knowledge on fire safety law and measures of fire safety. Stay safe and keep others around you safe.

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November 19, 2021

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