Air pollution from bonfires and smoke

Whilst you may have a bonfire at a domestic property, we do not promote burning household waste since it can reduce the air quality of our city and affect residents' health.

For further information please download our bonfire leaflet.

Alternatives to bonfires

Please think about practical alternatives for disposing of waste; other than bonfires.

Consider composting, recycling, or taking your waste to a household waste site such. There are two available in York:

Commercial waste

Burning of commercial or trade waste is not allowed on any site, without permission from the Environment Agency. Businesses have a legal obligation to dispose of waste in a proper manner and may be prosecuted for failing to do so.

Nuisance smoke

If a domestic bonfire causes a smoke nuisance we may ask you to put it out and prevent you having any further bonfires by serving a legal notice.

  • failure to comply with a legal notice could result in a fine up to £5,000
  • if a bonfire on a business site causes a smoke nuisance you could be taken to court and fined up to £20,000
  • if the fire creates 'dark smoke' you could also be fined up to £5,000

To minimise the likelihood of causing a smoke nuisance you should:

  • consult neighbours and give them time to shut windows and bring washing inside
  • avoid bonfires during windy or wet conditions, when smoke will be more likely to affect your neighbours
  • make sure that any garden waste to be burnt is dry
  • never burn plastics, painted materials, plywood and chipboard as they can give off poisonous chemicals - some of which can cause cancer
  • never use petrol, methylated spirits or similar to light the fire
  • never leave the fire unattended

Complaining about bonfires

If you're affected by smoke from a bonfire you should speak to the person responsible and politely make them aware of your situation. Often people are not aware that they are causing a nuisance.

Alternatively you can make a complaint with us by telephone or email. If, after an investigation, we decide there is a smoke nuisance we will approach the person responsible and ask them to stop. If they refuse, we'll issue a legal notice to stop them having bonfires. Failure to stop could lead to court action.

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