Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Burning waste controls

Burning waste

Burning waste is usually an environmentally poor option because of the risk of air pollution and the loss of potential resources. You should use other methods of waste management wherever possible. However, it may be appropriate if you can't find an alternative way to dispose of your waste, or if the waste is an efficient fuel.

In most cases, burning waste is forbidden or requires a pollution prevention and control permit, waste management licence or a registered waste exemption before you carry out the burning.

Waste incineration

What you must do

If you have a permit or licence you must comply with all of its conditions.

If you have a waste exemption you must comply with the relevant conditions to ensure that waste is recovered or disposed of without endangering human health or causing harm to the environment. In particular, you must not:

  • risk harm to water, air, soil, plants or animals
  • cause a noise or odour nuisance
  • adversely affect the countryside or places of special interest.

Burning materials such as plastics, rubber or MDF (medium-density fibreboard) can emit particularly polluting 'dark smoke'. Whether your activities require a permit or not, you must not create dark smoke. See the page in this guideline: Dark smoke restrictions.

If you are in any doubt about what you are allowed to burn, contact:

  • in Northern Ireland: the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA)
  • in Scotland: the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)

Contact your environmental regulator

In this guideline:

Causes and effects of air pollution

Business benefits of improving air quality

What you must do to prevent air pollution

Improve air quality: prevent dark smoke

Boilers and furnaces: environmental authorisations

Boilers and furnaces - chimney height requirements

Burning waste controls 

Protecting neighbours from air pollution

Measuring and monitoring to reduce air pollution

Air pollution environmental legislation

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Permits

NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms