Dust and smoke from your waste or sewage site can have a negative impact on the local environment - for example, dust from landfills and waste transfer stations and smoke from incineration.

What you must do

Comply with your permit, licence or registered exemption

If your business has a permit, licence or exemption you must comply with its conditions, including any conditions that control dust or smoke emissions. If you do not comply with conditions you can be fined or sent to prison.

Does your waste or sewage business need a permit, licence or exemption?

Prevent nuisance

In Northern Ireland and Scotland, if your business creates dust, grit, steam, fumes, ash or smoke that cause or are likely to cause a nuisance or harm the health of your neighbours, your local council can issue you with an abatement notice that:

  • requires you to reduce the nuisance
  • stops or places restrictions on your operations
  • requires you to carry out work or take other steps to reduce or stop the nuisance from reoccurring.

Anyone affected by the nuisance, such as your neighbours, can apply to the court in Northern Ireland or the sheriff in Scotland to issue you with an abatement notice.

You can be fined if you do not comply with an abatement notice, and your local authority can take steps to stop the nuisance and charge you for its costs.

For further information, see our guidance on noise, odour and other nuisances.

Prevent dark smoke

You must not emit dark smoke from:

  • chimneys of any building
  • chimneys serving furnaces, fixed boilers or industrial plant, whether they are attached to buildings or not
  • any industrial or trade premises.

You might produce dark smoke if you burn:

  • tyres and other rubber-based products
  • plastics such as polystyrene
  • cables to remove the plastic insulation
  • oils and paints.

Smoke is considered 'dark' if it has a shade of two or darker on a Ringlemann chart. You can find the Ringelmann chart in British Standard BS2742C.

BSI British Standards: BS 2742C 1957 Ringelmann chart

There are exemptions from the dark smoke emission restrictions when burning certain waste materials in the open, such as:

  • timber and some other waste materials from building demolition or site clearance
  • waste explosives
  • diseased animal carcasses.

You must still comply with any other legislation that covers these activities.

Good practice

Prevent dust and smoke at your site

  • Cover vehicles and skips that leave your site. This will prevent dust and waste from your site causing pollution.
  • Collect rainwater from your roof and use this to dampen down dusty areas of your site. Use sustainable urban drainage systems to collect run-off so that you do not cause water pollution.
  • Lay a hard surface on roads and storage areas to reduce dust at your site.
  • Use extraction units to remove dust from your operations. Filter the extracted air before you release it into the atmosphere.
  • Find alternatives to burning waste in the open - for example, redesign your processes to reduce or eliminate your waste, recycle and reuse materials at your site, send your waste for recovery, or burn your waste in an authorised waste incineration or co-incineration plant.

Be a good operator

  • Maintain a high standard of housekeeping at your site. This could help you reduce dust and other nuisances.
  • Keep records of how you have managed dust and smoke at your site including details of any complaints.
  • Regularly monitor dust and smoke at your site.
  • Keep your treatment processes under control so that they do not cause dust or smoke emissions.

Be a good neighbour

  • Speak regularly with your neighbours about any issues with dust or smoke at your site.
  • If you receive any complaints about dust or smoke deal with them quickly.
  • Record the results of investigations into complaints and anything you do to correct the problem.
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