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Improving Air Quality in Your Community

Outdoor Air - Industry, Business, and Home: Backyard Trash Burning

Information provided for informational purposes onlyNote: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

You can help homeowners who burn trash to reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAP), particle pollution, and volatile organic compounds (VOC) that may affect homeowners, their families, their neighbors, and the community by conducting these activities:

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Develop Awareness Materials

  • Properly designed and developed awareness materials can result in changed behaviors related to backyard burning.
  • Awareness materials may be utilized in conjunction with public awareness events, tables, or booths, workshops, or buy-back campaigns.
  • EPA has developed some brochures, including those that can be customized.
  • Awareness materials you will want to consider developing include:
    • Brochures
    • Posters
    • Newspaper ads
    • Guides
    • Inserts for utility bills
  • Material that is ready for display at various events, booths, and tables.
  • Costs associated with designing and producing materials.
  • Cost of printing 10,000 2-color, tri-fold brochures on heavier paper: $850 (Western Lake Superior Sanitation District [WLSSD]).
  • Direct mail of this brochure to 7,405 rural residences: $1,003 (WLSSD).
  • Purchasing ads in daily local newspaper: $764 per quarter-page ad (WLSSD).
  • Purchasing ads in smaller weekly newspapers: $176-$350 per quarter-page ad (WLSSD).
  • Cost of running 30, 30-second TV spots on 2 local stations over 2 months: $2,840 (WLSSD).
  • Cost of purchasing a 10' x 22' billboard: $625/month (WLSSD).

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Raise Public Awareness

  • Sponsor a Backyard Burning Awareness day or month.
  • Maintain a Backyard Burning Awareness table at public places such as libraries, schools, or community centers.
  • Sponsor a Backyard Burning Awareness booth at public places and/or events such as malls, athletic events, or fairs.
  • Offer Backyard Burning Awareness workshops for the public.
  • Use radio, television, and the Internet to raise people's awareness of the dangers of backyard burning.
  • Develop a backyard burning guide to give to agencies or the public.
  • Increases awareness about the dangers of backyard burning.
  • Decreases in the amount of backyard burning.
  • Costs associated with sponsoring events, tables, and booths.
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Work to Develop and Enforce Burn Bans

  • Most states have developed some sort of open burning laws; however, they may or may not completely ban backyard burning.
  • Local burning laws can be more stringent than state laws.
  • Check to see what type of burning laws your local area has and who enforces these laws.
  • If burning laws do not ban backyard burning, then
    • Work with your local government to pass either burn ban laws or a burn ban resolution.
    • Work with local law enforcement agencies to sponsor burn ban enforcement workshops.
    • Work with local agencies to ensure that once a burn ban is implemented, those citizens who previously burned have a way to dispose of their solid waste.
    • Encourage recycling at the local level.
  • One Minnesota County installed 5 rural drop-off sites where organized collection of refuse is not available. The on-site disposal rate has dropped by two-thirds and is now one of the lowest in the state (WLSSD).
  • In the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe in New York, approximately 50% of residents burned their trash before burning regulations were enacted. Since then, complaints have dropped, and burn barrels have been removed from residential premises (WLSSD).
  • Before the enactment of burning laws, Franklin County in northwestern Vermont used a survey to determine that 656 residential and business properties were found to have burning devices. Since the enactment and enforcement of burning laws, all but 35 devices have been verified as removed or inactive, a 95% drop (WLSSD).
  • Costs to local government related to enforcing burn bans.
  • Costs to local government and to residents to provide and use solid waste disposal services.
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Implement a Burn Barrel Exchange Program

  • Determine whether your area could benefit from a burn barrel exchange programs by conducting a survey either independently or in conjunction with your local government.
  • Seek funding for a burn-barrel turn-in program.
  • Work with local solid waste officials to ensure that citizens who turn in their burn barrels or cease burning trash and leaves in pits will have adequate ways in which to dispose of their solid waste.
  • Determine how to compensate citizens who turn in their burn barrels or agree to cease burning leaves and trash in pits. Examples include:
    • A certain amount of free solid waste disposal service.
    • A compost barrel.
    • Paper shredders for those who normally burn sensitive papers like bank statements.
  • One Minnesota County implemented a Burn Barrel Buy Back Program from 1996 to 1999. Before the program started, approximately 13% of the population burned trash. In 2004, only 3% of the current population disposed of trash by burning or burying (WLSSD).
  • In Washington State in 2003, the city of Bridgeport had and estimated 100 burn barrels. In the Spring of 2004, the city, county, and Department of Ecology co-sponsored a turn-in program where residents received compost bins in exchange for burn barrels. They collected 51 burn barrels (WLSSD).
  • Costs associated with subsidizing alternatives to trash burning.
  • Costs associated with program publicity.

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Develop Educational Curriculum about Backyard Burning

  • Work with your local school system to develop educational curriculum about the dangers of backyard burning. Your school system should help ensure that the curriculum meets state standards.
  • Encourage other organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and 4-H clubs to use your curriculum as part of their activities.
  • Offer to teach modules at local schools, daycares, and libraries.
  • Increased awareness by children about the dangers of backyard burning.
  • Decreased burning due to children influencing parental decisions.
  • Costs associated with developing educational curriculum.
      More Information

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