Bonfire guidance

We discourage the burning of garden and household waste as the smoke arising from bonfires often causes a nuisance to neighbours, pollutes the air and can give rise to a traffic hazard. We investigate bonfire complaints and will take enforcement action where the burning is impacting the environment, is causing a nuisance or is a breach of the person's waste duty of care responsibilities.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 it is an offence to dispose of waste in a way likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health. You should not burn waste that is likely to create excessive smoke or noxious fumes, for example, household rubbish, treated wood, material covered in plastic, foam or paints, plastics, tyres etc.

Air pollution can have damaging health effects and people with existing health problems are especially vulnerable, for instance, asthmatics, people with heart conditions, children and the elderly.

Under the Environment Protection Act 1990, a statutory nuisance includes smoke, fumes or gases emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance. Statutory nuisance exists if a bonfire interferes substantially with a person's wellbeing, comfort or enjoyment of their property. In addition smoke prevents neighbours from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging washing out and reduces visibility in the neighbourhood and on roads.

In addition to the above fire can spread to fences or buildings and scorch trees and plants. Exploding bottles and cans are a hazard when rubbish is burnt.

Burning industrial or trade waste

It is an offence under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to burn industrial or trade waste, subject to very specific exemptions or in accordance with a waste management licence. The penalty for an offence is up to five years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

It is an offence under the Clean Air Act 1993 to release dark smoke from any industrial or trade bonfire or from any chimney, except in very specific circumstances. As is burning insulation material from cable unless the burning is part of a permitted process. The penalty for such offences is an unlimited fine.

Alternatives to burning

As an alternative to burning you may wish to give your waste to another for disposal. As a householder you have a duty of care responsibility to ensure that person is authorised to take your waste, they must have an upper tier waste carrier's licence. Before employing someone always obtain their Environment Agencies waste carrier's licence number and check they are registered as a waste carrier with the Environment Agency. Obtain a receipt describing the waste you are handing over to them and keep a record of their name, address and telephone number.

Do not use anyone who is unable to provide you with their waste carrier's licence number and contact details. If you do and your waste is later found fly tipped or inappropriately disposed of you will be liable for £250 fixed penalty notice or prosecution.