What Are You Allowed To Burn in Your Garden in the UK? Wood, Paper and More

If you’re an avid gardener like me and have just been trimming some tree branches, you might wonder if you’re allowed to burn wood in your garden. So, what do UK regulations say about this? 

You are allowed to burn wood in your garden as long as the smoke and smell don’t disturb your neighbours. Also, the fire must not create toxic fumes or obstruct traffic on your street. 

Read further to discover if it’s illegal to have a fire in your garden and what you’re allowed to burn. I’ll also discuss if there are certain times when bonfires are or aren’t permitted. 

Is It Illegal To Have a Fire in Your Garden in the UK?

There may be various reasons you want to have a fire in your garden: burning garden waste, having a fun campfire and roasting marshmallows, or celebrating bonfire night. But before you go ahead, is it illegal to have a fire in your garden? 

It’s not illegal to have a fire in your garden in the UK. However, your fire shouldn’t emit dark smoke (typically from domestic waste), smoke excessively, or pose a danger to traffic in the area. 

burning of wood in the garden

It’s perfectly fine to have a small bonfire or barbecue in your garden. Still, most city councils in the UK encourage residents to put the fire out as soon as they’re finished with it to avoid unnecessary smoke, pollution, and carbon monoxide (Source: Brighton & Hove City Council). 

If you want to have a fire in your garden, you should consider doing the following beforehand (sources: East Suffolk Council, Norwich City Council): 

  • Check if your neighbours are sitting in their gardens or have washing drying outside. 
  • Inform your neighbours that you plan to have a fire in your garden and check if this is okay with them. 
  • Plan to have the fire when windy conditions don’t exacerbate the smoke and disturb your neighbours. Your fire shouldn’t prevent your neighbours from enjoying their gardens or opening their windows. 
  • Gather all the materials you want to burn so that your fire can last for a limited time.
  • Have a fire extinguisher, a bucket of water, or hosepipe close by. 
  • Check on your local council’s website to see if you fall under a smoke control area. 

What Can You Burn in Your Garden in the UK?

I’ve explained that you’re allowed to have a fire in your garden but should be mindful of your neighbours. So, you’ve decided to go ahead – but what can you actually burn in your garden? 

You can burn dry, untreated wood, organic garden waste, paper products, and anything else that won’t cause excessive smoke pollution or harm other people’s health. 

I’ll explain more about what you can burn in your garden next: 

Dry and Untreated Wood

You can burn dry wood that hasn’t been treated with chemicals, painted, or varnished. Pallets are the most typical thing I can think of that you shouldn’t burn, as they’re heavily treated.

If you burn damp wood, it will create a lot of smoke and unnecessarily pollute the area around you. Burning wood that’s been treated with chemicals, paint, or varnish can also create toxic fumes, creating a health hazard to humans and pets. We’ve got three cats and keep them well away from any fire or smoke.

Organic Garden Waste

UK councils allow residents to burn garden waste, including: 

  • Dry leaves 
  • Plant cuttings 
  • Stems 

However, if you often have a large amount of garden waste that you want to get rid of, it’s better to pay the annual fee for garden waste collection. 

Your local council will dispose of your garden waste responsibly, donate it to farmers, or compost it (source: UK Government). 

Paper Products

You can burn paper products (like newspapers and magazines) in your garden, but they should be dry so that they don’t create a lot of smoke (source: One Education). 

If you have papers you want to get rid of, placing them in your recycling bin is a better option as the council will recycle them for you. 

Some people like to burn confidential documents so they don’t end up in the wrong hands. I used to do this – however, you should consider shredding the documents and recycling them. 

A shredder has pretty much replaced the burning I used to do – they’re cheap and effective these days, like this one on Amazon.

bonfire in the garden

Are There Certain Times Big Garden Bonfires Are Allowed? 

If you’re planning on having a bonfire any time other than November 5th, it’s good to know if they’re allowed on your scheduled date. So, are there certain times that garden bonfires are permitted? 

There aren’t certain times when bonfires are allowed, and the law states that you may have one whenever you like. However, you should be careful that your bonfire’s smoke doesn’t temporarily cause local air pollution problems. 

According to the statutory nuisance provisions of the Environmental Protection Act of 1990, you could receive a fixed penalty notice if your bonfire causes a nuisance to your neighbours (source: UK Legislation National Archives).

However, for the sake of goodwill, councils encourage people to chat to their neighbours and inform them that they’re causing smoke problems before reporting them. 

Instead of burning garden waste on your bonfire, consider composting it as this is more environmentally friendly (source: UK Government, East Devon District Council). 

All in all, councils throughout the country allow controlled fires as long as they don’t disturb your neighbours or create too much pollution. Of course, on bonfire night, everyone expects fires in gardens and it’s not such a big deal… but I thought I’d write about all the other times you might want to have a fire.

I hope you found this guide on what you can and cannot burn in your garden useful!

John Wag

Father, grandfather and proud Yorkshireman. I Love antiques, militaria, collecting coins, banknotes, and anything historical. Enjoy brewing my own beer and other pottering around the house, too!

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