Burning waste (bonfires)

Waste you can and can't dispose of on a bonfire, safety instructions, when to light a fire and reporting a bonfire issue.

What waste can I get rid of using a bonfire?

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

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

However, as an alternative to burning, you can also 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.

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 the proper authorisation, and this includes burning it.  Read more about waste laws on the government's Legislation website.

Are there any times when I cannot light a fire?

No. There are no by-laws in the East Riding that specify when you can and cannot light a fire. However, we ask that you consider the weather conditions so you cause minimal disruption to the environment and others around you.

Should I inform the neighbours of my bonfire?

Smoke prevents 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 burning waste?

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 which originates from a business or another address?

No, you are not allowed to burn waste that has not originated from your property, and this includes waste from a neighbour or from a business activity.

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

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

If you are a tree surgery, landscape gardening 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.

Please note: any business transporting waste must have a waste carriers licence.