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Bonfires and waste disposal

Bonfires and waste disposal

Bonfires cause air pollution. Burning probably causes more pollution than any other method of waste disposal.

Bonfire smoke creates pollutants such as carbon monoxide, dioxins and particles. Burning things such as plastic, rubber or painted materials will not only create an unpleasant odour, but also produce poisonous compounds.

Bonfire smoke may also cause problems for asthmatics, bronchitis sufferers, people with heart conditions and children.

Air pollution in the UK often reaches unhealthy levels. A bonfire will only add to the general background levels of air pollution. Part of Scunthorpe is within an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). This was designated for a breach of the air quality objective for particulate matter.

Apart from air pollution, bonfires can cause annoyance to neighbours and any bonfire is a potential safety risk.

There are no restrictions on the time of lighting a garden bonfire. 

If you have garden waste to dispose of, it is better to compost it, either in a home composter or by putting it in your brown bin for collection. You can also take garden waste to a council household recycling centre.

We can only take action against someone who causes a smoke nuisance by having regular bonfires.

Report smoke nuisance 

If you make a complaint, we aim to contact you within one working day, either by letter, by telephone or by visiting you at home.

If a bonfire is the best practicable option for disposing of garden waste, follow these guidelines from Environmental Protection UK to avoid causing a nuisance:

  • Warn your neighbours beforehand
  • Do not light a bonfire if your neighbours are in the garden, have their washing out, or have their windows open
  • Only burn dry material
  • Never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres, or anything containing plastic, foam or paint
  • Never use old engine oil, meths or petrol to light the fire
  • Avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions; smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days and in the evening
  • If it is windy, smoke may be blown into neighbouring gardens and across roads
  • Avoid burning when air pollution in you area is high or very high
  • Never leave a fire unattended and have plenty of water available to put the fire out if you need to

The burning of trade waste is an offence. All businesses have a duty of care regarding their waste and must ensure it is properly managed and have suitable arrangements in place for its storage, collection, transportation and final disposal.

Causing dark smoke from burning waste at a trade, industrial or business premises is an offence under the Clean Air Act 1993. Furthermore, any bonfire could constitute a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 in relation to smoke, fumes and dust, for example.

We have produced Bonfires and the law: a guide for business [PDF, 992Kb] explaining the legislation in further detail.

We offer a range of commercial waste services to businesses.

In most cases it is illegal to burn cereal straw and stubble and the residues of oilseed rape, peas and beans in the field.

For further information please read our crop burning leaflet [PDF, 20Kb].

Whether you are a private householder or a business you have a duty in law to ensure that you only dispose of your waste via a permitted waste carrier to a permitted site, such as North Lincolnshire Council wheeled bins, household recycling centre or trade waste service.

If you do not do this you may be committing an offence.

You can check if the person collecting your waste has a permit from the Environment Agency.

Smoke nuisance


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Opening hours

Monday to Thursday: 8.30am to 5pm

Friday: 8.30am to 4.30pm

Closed Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays

Last updated: 04/04/2017