The term Backyard Burning is applied to the uncontrolled burning of waste. 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 green waste and also to the burning of waste on Farms and building sites. This term also refers to the use of what are commonly described as rubbish burners or domestic waste incinerators.
What happens when we burn?
Plastics containing PVC (Polyvinyl chlorides) can release carbon monoxide, dioxins and chlorinated furans when burned. 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. Many of these are highly toxic and cancer-causing substances. Some products which PVC may be present in are:
- Containers for food
- Cosmetics and pharmaceutical products packaging
- Children’s toys
- Blister and shrink wraps
- Vinyl tubing etc.
Polystyrenes and styrenes: These are used in many packaging products like foam cups, fast food trays, meat trays, deli food containers, plastic forks and spoons, etc. Upon burning these emit gases which can damage eye and mucous membranes if doses are high enough.
Painted woods: If the paint is lead based (especially the older paints), burning can emit lead laden fumes which can be easily inhaled by by-standers.
Polyurethanes: Found in curtains, furniture foams, adhesives, wood finishes, and etc.
The Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulations 2009, as amended.
The Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulations 2009 came into force on the 29th July 2009 and was amended again on 29th December 2017. The main points of the legislation are as follows:
- It is an offence to burn any type of waste including garden waste such as brush, scrub, pruning, etc.
- The use of any device to burn waste, such as the “domestic waste incinerator”, stoves or open fires is an offence.
- The owner or occupier of lands or a facility must take all reasonable steps to ensure that waste is not burnt on their lands or facility illegally.
- There is an exemption to allow untreated/uncontaminated wood, trees, trimmings, leaves, bushes or similar materials generated by agricultural practices as a very last resort to be disposed of by burning and then only after filling in the required Statutory Declaration.
(This exemption only applies to waste generated by agricultural practices. It does not apply to leaves/grass/bushes in a domestic garden for example). The exemption applies only when all other options of disposal, such as reduction, reuse, and recycling by shredding, composting or wood chipping, are found not to be practicable or economically viable.
- There is an onus on the waste holder to investigate all other more environmentally friendly methods of treatment of green waste before disposal by burning.
- The holder of the permissible waste will have to inform the local authority by Statutory Declaration in advance of the proposed burning of such waste. Holders of permissible waste, who dispose of the waste by burning without filling in the required statutory declaration form are in breach of the regulation.
- 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.
- Since the 1st January 2018, all burning is not allowed unless an application is made for a Certificate of Registration under the Waste Management (Facility Permit and Registration) Regulations 2007, as amended.
- The use of untreated or uncontaminated wood waste and other similar materials is permitted 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.
Any farmer intending to burn agricultural waste should adhere to the fire safety checklist:
- Is the fire absolutely necessary?
- Do I have the ability to stop the fire if the need arises?
- The fire should be located more than 1 mile from any woodland or forest.
- Am I certain that my property and my neighbour’s property will be safe?
- Am I sure that smoke from the fire will not cause a nuisance to others, road users and neighbours in particular?
- Have I alerted my neighbours and the relevant authorities of my intention to burn?
- Have I sufficient help and equipment on standby to control the planned fire?
- Have I adequate means of communication and the necessary contact details should an emergency arise?
- Prior to commencement of the controlled burning, I will notify the Fire Service directly by dialling 999 or 112 to advise the operator that I am carrying out the controlled burning, giving the location address, and confirming that I will ring back when the burning is complete.
Please also note other relevant legislation:
The Air Pollution Acts.
It is an offence to cause nuisance or air pollution by burning waste.
The Wildlife Acts.
It is an offence for a person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy, during the period beginning on the 1st day of March and ending on the 31st day of August in any year, (i) any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated, and (ii) any vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch
Procedures for farmers wishing to burn green waste generated by agricultural practices
The applicant must submit a signed application form.
Mulching as a means of waste management
An alternative way of managing woody materials cleared from agricultural lands would be to mulch, chip or shred materials. The final product then becomes a resource that can be used for landscaping or gardening purposes on your property.
The Real Solution
The only real solution is to minimise the amount of waste of which we have to dispose. We can achieve this through changes in what we buy. We all must cut down on the volumes of waste, which we need to dispose of by avoidance and reuse.
We should assess our waste to look for reuse opportunities. We should see if there are any beneficial reuse options for items and materials that would otherwise be recycled. For example, empty containers, are they returnable or reusable elsewhere.
Recycling is the next best option. We should separate our waste into the various waste types. Those that are recyclable, i.e. glass and beverage cans should be brought to bring-banks making sure to do so as part of another journey.
Learn how to compost your waste at home. A leaflet is available to view in our Useful Links/Leaflets section.
Textiles and footwear in good condition should be washed and bagged, so that the next time you are passing a Textile bank, you can recycle them. Some charity shops also accept this material, so call them beforehand to find out what they will accept.
Paper, Plastic & Metals
You should contact your Local Authority for a list of permitted collectors before you give anybody your residual waste for disposal. All Waste Collection Contractors must have a Waste Collection Permit before they can accept waste. Details on collection permits must be obtained from the National Waste Collection Permit Office at 057 9357428. It is a criminal offence to give your waste to a contractor who does not hold a valid Waste Collection Permit. If in doubt contact our Environment Section.
Reporting an issue of Backyard Burning
Failure to comply with these regulations is an offence and fines of up to €3,000 may be imposed.
If your neighbour or someone else you see is illegally burning waste, then in the interest of your own health and the environment, please report the incident to the 24-hour National Environmental Complaints Line, lo-call telephone number 1850 365 121 or to Kerry County Council, Environment Department using the contact details below
Fire Service Call out Fees
In the event that an incident is reported, and the Fire Service have to attend it is important to note that Fees may apply as follows:
- Chimney Fire €100.00
- Domestic out-building €250.00
- Other (land etc.) €500.00 per hour (or part thereof)
Maine St., Tralee, Co. Kerry.
Phone: (066) 7162000
Open: Opening Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Disclaimer: This interpretation does not purport to be a legal opinion and while care has been taken to ensure that the content of this document is useful and accurate no responsibility for the content, or the accuracy of the information provided or for any loss or damage caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with reliance on the use of such information can be accepted. As with all matters legal, you should always consult with the original legislation.