How to burn garden waste without smoke?

UK Home Improvement

How to Burn Garden Waste Without Smoke?

As anyone who owns, rents or simply lives in a property is well aware, a household can produce a lot of waste.

This is particularly the case for residences with multiple people inside, but you’d also be surprised by just how much waste someone lives alone produces. In fact, on average, everyone in England and Wales produces around 500kg of household waste each year!

Garden waste is another type of domestic waste that people need to consider.  With this in mind, it’s no surprise that people will sometimes go to extreme lengths to dispose of waste – including burning it.

While most of us will have regular garden waste collections and the local tip will also take waste, sometimes we have too much and need alternative ways to dispose of it. Burning waste is one of the most common things people will try, but the smoke this method produces can be unpleasant. 

So much so that people often ask the question ‘how to burn waste without smoke?’ 

In this article, we’ll explore this question, as well as discuss best practices for burning garden waste.  

What is garden waste?

Typically, garden waste is a type of household waste that has been generated during gardening activities. This could be grass cuttings, weeds, hedge trimming or pieces of wood, vegetation and leaf matter. 

Most local authorities provide households with dedicated garden waste bins that are frequently collected where these things can be disposed of appropriately. 

However, if you live in an area that doesn’t offer this service or you simply have so much garden waste that it won’t all fit in your bin, you may consider burning waste as an alternative way to get rid of it. 

How to burn garden waste without smoke?

Before we go any further, it’s important to note that it’s impossible to completely burn garden waste without producing any smoke whatsoever. 

Wood, branches, leaves, grass and other forms of garden waste will always release smoke as they burn, as it releases gases that the waste is producing.

However, while it may not be possible to have a smokeless burn, there are a number of things you can do to minimise how much smoke is produced.  

Below are our top five tips to produce less smoke when burning garden waste.

Only burn dry waste 

A great way to prevent excess smoke is to make sure you’re only burning dry garden waste. Anything that is wet, damp or moist is likely to produce even more smoke during the burning process so these are best avoided. 

If you’ve recently experienced rainfall, it’s a good idea to wait a few days for the materials to dry before you get the bonfire going. 

Add kindling 

Adding the right kind of fuel will also impact how much smoke is produced. As mentioned above, wood is a common garden material that is burned and you can also add some kindling to the fire to reduce the amount of smoke.

Using a piece of kindling, or some dry paper if you don’t have any, will help the fire to ignite more quickly, burn at a hotter temperature and produce less smoke. 

Keep a fire contained 

The smaller the fire the less smoke will be produced, so it’s worth keeping yours on the smaller end of the scale. Larger fires are well known for being extremely smoky, so keeping them small and well-contained will reduce this.

Use a burn pit or chimenea 

Staying on the theme of containment, using a burn pit or a chimenea is a fantastic and innovative way to minimise your output of smoke. 

A burn pit is a garden device that is specifically designed for burning materials, including garden waste. With this in mind, using these kinds of products are a great way to minimise smoke as they offer a more controlled environment and will burn in a steadier way.

Similarly, a chimenea is also worth considering. A chimenea is a freestanding outdoor fireplace that comes with a large, ventilated chimney. Usually, these fireplaces will be made from terracotta and will reduce smoke as the ventilation is more efficient than a completely open flame. 

Consider the weather conditions 

Also, consider the weather forecast before you start burning garden waste. 

It’s always better to start your fire when the weather is dry. Wet weather will mean it will take longer for everything to properly burn, meaning more smoke will be released. 

And, burning garden waste in low winds, high pressure and humid conditions means that the smoke is likely to dissipate faster. 

By following the tips above, you can effectively minimise how much smoke is produced when you’re burning waste. Once the burning has been completed, it’s also important to dispose of the ashes properly.

Wait until the fire has cooled, and remove ashes from your fire pit or the area where you’ve burned the waste. You can then scatter your ashes around your garden or on a compost heap. Never place ashes in a plastic bag as they can remain hot for hours after the fire has burned.  

What are the laws surrounding burning waste? 

While there are no specific laws that make it illegal to burn garden waste, the Environmental Protection Act 1990 forbids the disposal of domestic waste (including garden waste) in any way that could be harmful to people’s health. 

Falling under the Clean Air Act 1993, this means that excessive smoke that could pollute the atmosphere and cause harm, can be deemed a breach of this legislation. With this in mind, it’s always a good idea to minimise smoke in any way you can, such as following the tips we mentioned above.

As well as this, the Highways Act 1980 includes a clause which states you must not allow smoke from a fire to drift onto any nearby road. This is because it could obstruct the vision of drivers and result in an accident. Anyone found in breach of this could face a hefty fine.

Furthermore, any domestic fire that is deemed ‘bothersome’ by neighbouring properties can be reported to the police. This could be if smoke or ash has spread into other people’s gardens. The fire could then be deemed a ‘nuisance’ and an abatement notice presented to you which demands you put out the blaze.

If you ignore the notice, you will face a fine of up to £5,000.

The best way to avoid this, is to keep your smoke to a minimum. 


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