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Backyard Burning

Backyard Burning

The term Backyard Burning is applied to the uncontrolled burning of waste.  The term also refers to the burning of any waste in open fires, ranges and other solid fuel appliances or in the open. It includes the burning of green waste and also to the burning of waste on building sites. This term also refers to  the use of what are commonly described as rubbish burners or domestic waste incinerators.

The Problems

Burning used to be seen as a nuisance to the householder because it ruined a neighbour's washing with smuts. In the past the nuisance caused directly by smoke was considered the only reason not to burn waste. Traditionally waste was made up of simple things like wood, paper and organically produced food waste. However modern science has changed much of this. The application of chemicals to preserve and enhance things and the widespread use of metals and plastic in most manufacturing items has changed much of what is in our waste today.

Toxic Fumes

When we burn most waste items, toxic and dangerous by-products are created. These are not subsequently destroyed by the fire and are emitted into the air we breathe. These pollutants can have profound long term health implications. Tiny amounts of some pollutants emitted by the backyard burning of chlorinated products like certain types of plastics and solvents. These are sufficient to have undesirable health effects. They can also contaminate our back-gardens when they precipitate out of the air and land on the ground. This type of uncontrolled burning should be avoided at all costs. For example burning wood that is painted or treated with a preservative can be the cause of emitting very toxic fumes. The same is true when paper, which is plastic coated or contains certain inks, or glue used to bind pages together in book form, is burned.

The Law

Back yard burning of waste is prohibited by SI No 538 of 2015 - Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning (Amendment) Regulations (amended) 2015. The main points of this legislation are as follows however this explanation does not act as a substitute for the law.

  • It is an offence to burn any type of waste including garden waste.
  • The use of devices to burn waste such as the “domestic waste incinerators”  is an offence.
  • It is an offence to burn household waste by use of stoves or open fires.
  • There is an exemption to allow farmers to dispose by burning of untreated/uncontaminated wood, trees, trimmings, leaves, bushes or similar materials generated by agricultural practices as a very last resort.  (This exemption does not apply unless the waste is generated by agricultural practices so it would not apply to leaves/grass/bushes in a domestic garden for example)
  • This exemption only applies until the 31st December, 2020, after which time all burning will be disallowed unless an application is made for a Certificate of Registration under the Waste Management (Facility Permit and Registration) Regulations.
  •  Until 1st Jan 2018: The onus is on farmers to investigate all other more environmentally friendly methods of treatment of their green waste such as reduction, reuse, and recycling by shredding, composting or wood chipping before disposal by burning.
  • The exemption applies when all other options of disposal of the green waste generated by agricultural practices are found not to be practicable or economically viable.
  • The farmers (holder of the waste) will have to apply to the local authority and sign a statutory notice in advance of the proposed burning of such waste.
  • Strict conditions apply when using burning as a means of disposal of green waste (generated by agricultural practices) such as limiting nuisance and protection of human health and not causing environmental pollution.
  • The use of untreated or uncontaminated wood waste and other similar materials can be used in barbeques for the purpose of cooking food.
  • Burning of untreated or uncontaminated wood waste or similar materials may take place at events as may be determined locally by the local authority.


Procedures for farmers wishing to burn green waste generated by agricultural practices

The applicant must submit a signed application form.  Please include the following (1) Proof that cost of mulching is not economically viable, (2) Photo of nature and volume of waste, (3) Discovery map (Scale 1:50 000) with 'X' marked clearly on location where burning is intended.

Application Form for Burning of Green Waste

Mulching as a means of waste management

An alternative way of managing woody materials cleared from agricultural lands would be to mulch, chip or shred materials. The final product then becomes a resource that can be used for landscaping or gardening purposes on your property.

Equipment to carry out mulching may be available from local tool hire companies but if quantities are large you may want to use the services of Tree Surgeons which would have specialist equipment to carry out mulching.

Contact Details for Mulching/Tree Surgeons are as follows:

Ambrose Gaughan:  094 9258383 (Foxford Area),       Noel McEllin:  094 9032133 (Castlebar)      Thomas O'Rourke:  094 9374981 (Claremorris).  Ronan Grehan: 087 7590677

These companies have provided their contact details to Mayo County Council but other companies are available.  Contact the Golden Pages, Internet or Local Media for details.

The Real Solution

The only real solution is to minimise the amount of waste of which we have to dispose. We can achieve this through changes in what we buy. We all must cut down on the volumes of waste, which we need to dispose of by avoidance and reuse.


We should assess our waste to look for reuse opportunities. We should see if there is any beneficial reuse options for items and materials that would otherwise be recycled. For example empty containers, are they returnable or reusable elsewhere.


Recycling is the next best option. We should separate our waste into the various waste types. Those that are recyclable, ie glass and beverage cans should be brought to bring-banks making sure to do so as part of another journey.

Home Composting

Learn how to compost your waste at home by visiting our Composting Section.


Textiles and footware in good condition should be washed and bagged, so that the next time you are passing a Textile bank, you can recycle them. Some charity shops also accept this material, so call them beforehand to find out what they will accept.

Paper, Plastic & Metals

You should contact your Local Authority for a list of permitted collectors before you give anybody your residual waste for disposal. All Waste Collection Contractors must have a Waste Collection Permit before they can accept waste. Details on collection permits must be otained from the National Waste Collection Permit Office at 057 9357428.  It is a criminal offence to give your waste to a contractor who does not hold a valid Waste Collection Permit.  If in doubt contact our Environment Section.

Environment, Climate Action & Agriculture Department

Second Floor, Mayo County Council
Áras an Chontae
The Mall
Phone: (094) 9024444
Contact Form: Online Complaints / Queries
Open: Opening Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
and 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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