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Bonfire advice

Alternative ways to dispose of waste, waste you can and can't burn on a bonfire, safety advice, informing your neighbours, and reporting a bonfire issue.

What are the alternatives to having a bonfire?

As an alternative to burning, which can have an impact on local air quality, you can put suitable garden waste in your brown bin, or consider home composting.  You can also take garden waste and wood from your property to a household waste recycling site, or you may be able to arrange a bulky waste collection.

What waste can I burn on a bonfire?

If you intend to have a bonfire, you must only burn:

  • dry garden waste from your own domestic property
  • unpainted, untreated or diseased wood from your own domestic property. 

What waste shouldn’t I burn?

Avoid burning green or damp garden waste as this is likely to generate more smoke, which could cause a nuisance to your neighbours.

You must never burn household waste, such as:

  • aerosols
  • foam-filled furniture
  • items containing polystyrene
  • old furniture
  • painted or treated wood
  • plastics
  • tins of paint
  • tyres. 

These items can cause excessive smoke and noxious fumes that can harm the environment and the health of you and the others around you.  Tins and bottles can also explode when in a fire.  Read more about how burning affects air quality

It is also an offence to dispose of waste from a trade or business activity without an appropriate environmental permit, and this includes burning it.  Read more about waste laws on the government's Legislation website.

Are there any times when I cannot have a bonfire?

No. There are no by-laws in the East Riding that specify when you can and cannot light a fire. However, you should always consider the weather conditions so you cause minimal disruption to the environment and others around you.  It is also suggested that you do not have frequent bonfires as this is more likely to cause a nuisance to your neighbours.

Should I inform my neighbours if I am planning to have a bonfire?

Yes.  Smoke may prevent neighbours from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging washing out so it is a good idea to let them know in advance. If they are aware they are less likely to complain to us.

What safety advice should I follow when having a bonfire?

For the health and safety of yourself, children, pets and neighbours follow these safety instructions:

Building the fire

  • Site the bonfire well away from houses, garages, sheds, fences, overhead cables, trees and shrubs. This will prevent them from getting scorched or catching fire.
  • Make sure it is stable and will not collapse outwards or sideways. 

Burning the pile

  • Consider the best time to light the fire - think carefully about wind direction and the time of day so you can cause the least nuisance to your neighbours.
  • Look out for hibernating wildlife and sleeping pets. Piles of garden waste are often used as a refuge for animals.
  • Do not use oil, petrol or methylated spirits to start your bonfire. This can be harmful to both you and the environment.
  • Make sure everyone stays a safe distance from the fire, especially children.
  • Keep buckets of water, a water hose or a fire extinguisher ready in case of an emergency.
  • Do not leave the bonfire unattended or leave it to smoulder, especially at night. 

Dampening the embers

  • Make sure the fire is completely out before you walk away from it. Put water on the embers or cover them with soil. 

Can I report an issue caused by burning waste?

Yes you can. Find out how to report air pollution.

If bonfire smoke is drifting across a road and endangers traffic or causes injury call 999 to report this to the police. The person who lit the fire may receive a fine.

Can I burn waste from a business or from another property?

No, you are not allowed to burn waste from a trade or business activity, or waste from someone else's property, unless you have an appropriate environmental permit.  Everyone who produces waste has a legal responsibility, known as a 'duty of care', to make sure it is disposed of properly.  Any business transporting waste must also have a waste carriers licence.

Read more about waste laws on the government's Legislation website.

There are many other ways you can dispose of business waste.

Please note: If you are a tree surgeon, landscape gardener or joinery business, you can only burn certain types of suitable waste at the place it is produced, under an exemption from the Environment Agency. You can find out about this exemption on the GOV.UK website.

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