Regulations and Alternatives to Burning
Burning Household Trash is Against the Law
Open burning is regulated by New York State statutory and regulatory authority -- Environmental Conservation Law, §§ 9,19, 6 NYCRR Part 215 Open Fires. (link leaves DEC's website) Part 215 prohibits the open burning of most household wastes statewide. Disposal of brush by open burning is still allowed in small towns, and untreated, unpainted waste wood (e.g. scraps of kiln dried lumber) can be burned in campfires.
Some local governments also have their own laws that further restrict or prohibit private citizens from burning any types of household waste. Check with local officials for laws that may affect you and your neighborhood.
Not only can open fires have adverse health effects, they can also spread into dangerous wildfires. DEC offers the following guidelines to minimize the risk of wildfire:
- never leave a fire unattended;
- always make sure a fire is completely out;
- do not build a fire on windy days;
- always have water and a rake or shovel on hand;
- keep your fire small enough so you can control it; and
- scrape all burnable materials at least ten feet away from a fire.
In areas where open burning is allowed, individuals can burn only the following materials: clean, unpainted and uncoated wood, charcoal, and downed limbs and branches less than 6 inches in diameter and 8 feet in length (except between March 16 and May 14).
Burning of downed limbs and branches may require a DEC permit within the Catskill and Adirondack regions and is prohibited within incorporated villages and cities throughout the State. To find out if a permit is required, individuals should contact their local Forest Ranger or nearest DEC regional office.
Fewer Wildfires Have Occurred Since Regulating Opening Burning
In 2009, New York toughened restrictions on open burning to reduce harmful air pollutants and help prevent wildfires. Open burning is the largest single cause of wildfires in New York State. Data from DEC's Forest Protection Division show that debris burning accounted for about 40 percent of wildfires in the state between 1986 and 2006 - more than twice the next most-cited source. From 2000 to 2007, New York's fire departments responded to an average of 2,600 wildfires each year during the period of March 14 through May 16 (now the burn ban period).
One year after passage of the regulation, DEC Forest Protection Division data for 2010 indicated a 33 percent reduction in wildfires caused by debris burning during the burn ban period in 2010 when compared to the past 10 years, including weather considerations. In addition, based on information provided by statewide fire departments, 70 percent of the smaller communities across the state had a reduction in the overall number of wildfires.
Break the Habit - Stop Illegal Backyard Burning
Here are some simple tips to avoid the need the need to burn your trash:
Avoid waste. Buy fewer items and select products with the least packaging. Buy in bulk or larger quantities and demand less packaging on the products you buy.
Buy products that can be re-used and/or come in containers that can be re-filled. Find someone else who can use it, have a yard sale, or donate it to a resale or non-profit organization. Chip brush and clean wood to make mulch or decorative chips, or use it as heating fuel in wood stoves.
Learn about your community's recycling programs for newspaper, office paper, corrugated cardboard, magazines, aluminum, metal, acceptable plastics and any other materials. Additional information on recycling is available at NYRecycles.org.
Compost plant-based kitchen and yard waste: leaves, plant clippings and food waste. Additional information on composting is available at NYRecycles.org.
Hire a sanitation service that will collect and properly dispose of your trash and recyclables; deliver them to your local transfer station or waste-to-energy facility; or work with your neighbors to develop a service that fits your community. Use the best waste disposal practice established in your municipality.
For your health, the health of your family and neighbors, and your community's environment, the DEC and the NYS Department of Health (DOH) urge you to STOP BACKYARD BURNING.
For more information about waste disposal or burning regulations, contact your DEC Regional Air Pollution Control Engineer. For more information about health effects and exposure to chemicals, contact DOH, Center for Environmental Health at (800) 458-1158. And to report environmental law violations, call 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).