Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Burning waste - What you need to know

Burning waste is usually an environmentally poor waste management option because potential resources are lost and it can cause air, land and water pollution. You should always try to reduce, reuse, recycle or recover your waste materials before disposing of them in the most appropriate way. Burning waste may be appropriate if there is no better alternative way to dispose of your waste or if the waste can be used as an efficient fuel.

In most circumstances you will need a pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit or waste management licence or a registered waste exemption for burning waste. Make sure that you have the correct permits, licences or exemptions in place before you burn waste. In some cases, burning waste is forbidden.

This guide is for any business that burns waste for disposal or to generate energy. It covers what you need to do if you burn waste in the open air or within a waste burning unit. It provides guidance on the permits, licences and exemptions that you require to burn waste and suggests alternatives to burning waste.

Additional resources

Controls on burning waste in the open

Burning waste in the open may release harmful gases, grit and dust. Residues of harmful chemicals such as lead paints, tars and oils that remain in the ashes can be washed into the ground by rain. This may lead to contamination of the soil, groundwater and surface waters.

Read more about burning waste in the open

Requirements of the Waste Incineration Directive

The Waste Incineration Directive (WID) is a European law which aims to prevent or limit the negative effects of waste incineration on the environment. If you burn solid or liquid waste then the WID is likely to apply to you. Read about what the Waste Incineration Directive means for your business

Permits for burning waste

If you burn waste as a fuel on your site to produce energy or steam in a generator, furnace or boiler you may need a permit from:

  • the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) or your district council
  • the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

Read about permits for burning waste


Exemptions for burning waste

Depending on the type and quantity of waste that you burn, and your method of burning, you may qualify for an exemption from waste management licensing.

Read about waste exemptions for burning certain types of waste

Alternatives to burning waste

When you burn waste you are losing a potential resource and you also risk causing air, land and water pollution. You should find alternative methods of waste management wherever possible.

Read about alternatives to burning waste


Burning waste environmental legislation

This page provides links to the full text of key pieces of environmental legislation relating to burning waste.

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