Bonfires

Commercial bonfires

Every year many businesses break the law by burning their waste illegally. If you do this, you risk a hefty fine.

What's wrong with burning waste?

  • Smoke causes pollution. Burning plastics, rubber or painted/treated wood produces poisonous compounds. This can have a damaging effect on people's health, particularly those who suffer from respiratory problems like asthma and bronchitis
  • Businesses have a duty of care to dispose of their waste responsibly. There are several laws preventing businesses from disposing of their waste by burning
  • Fires present a serious danger if they get out of control and can cause death, injury or significant damage to people's property.

The law

  • It's an offence to keep, treat or dispose of your waste in a way that causes pollution of the environment or harm to human health. Businesses can be fined up to £50,000 and you could even be sent to prison
  • If you burn your waste, it is highly likely that you are not complying with the Environmental Protection Act's Duty of Care
  • It is illegal to emit dark smoke from any trade or industrial premises. Dark smoke is produced by materials such as rubber, plastics, processed board materials like plywood and chipboard and often general mixed waste. Fines can be up to £20,000
  • Causing a smoke nuisance is an offence. This can occur when smoke, smell or ash from a fire enters the property of a neighbouring business or residence. You can be issued with a Smoke Abatement Notice and prosecuted if you do not comply
  • It's an offence to burn insulation cable with a view to recovering the metal. You will be prosecuted and can be fined up to £5,000
  • If you light a fire and allow smoke to drift across a road, endangering traffic, you could face a fine

Burning waste legally

There are very few circumstances where a business can legally burn waste: 

  • You can burn waste in the open if it is plant tissue, waste bark, sawdust, shavings or cuttings from untreated wood from wood processing or the production of panels or furniture. You can only do this if the waste is on the land it originated on and does not cause a smoke nuisance
  • You can burn certain types of waste as a fuel in a small appliance or a purpose-built incineration plant. What can and cannot be burnt and in what type of appliance is complicated, so if you wish to consider this you need to contact us

Disposing of your waste legally

You must pay for your waste to be recycled or disposed of in an appropriate manner by a legitimate licensed waste contractor.

Further information