Why Burning Trash Can Cost You More Than Just A Couple of Matches

Burn Baby, Burn? NOT! 


If trashyou never burned a plastic spoon at least once as a child then you may have missed out on a classic childhood event. However, those days of sneaking behind the house, watching those poor spoons or foam cups melt over a fire are long gone now and actually, if you never did such a thing as a kid kudos to you for being green at such an early age. While an ever burning trash pile may sound like fun for kids, it is actually terrible on the environment and to human health.

“Backyard burning” as it is often called, is most common in rural areas as garbage pickups can sometimes be inefficient or non-existent. While this may seem like the best option for some, burning trash can cause a multitude of problems.  Burning household garbage releases toxic chemicals or, dioxins, since it is mostly comprised of plastics. Because plastic can sometimes be made of different compounds dioxins are greatly affected by the amount of time it burns, how high the temperature gets while burning and how the garbage is burned. Meaning, if garbage is burned in a semi-closed container such as a trash can it is more likely to get hotter and therefore release more concentrated dioxins than an open pit fire. When these dioxins are released through combustion the smoke can take many years to settle and actually end up in the atmosphere for quite some time.

The EPA has found the burning of garbage to be the number 1 source for dioxin release and it also estimates that burning 10 pounds of trash a day can produce as much air pollution as a modern, well-controlled incinerator burning 400,000 pounds of trash a day. Once those dioxins settle they can get into the water system, onto agricultural fields, which is then ingested by animals and eventually humans. This is not good news for us since some dioxins have been found to be carcinogenic and can affect normal brain and reproductive function. Toxic dioxins have also been found to cause a skin disease similar to acne as well as heart disease and diabetes. With such a great impact on the Earth and on humans, it is important to realize that there are other options for burning trash.


Top Tips

  • Reduce your overall consumption and the amount of waste that has to be disposed of in the first place.  
  • Recycle to lessen the amount of waste that has to be sent to landfills.  
  • Compost. Decrease your amount of garbage even more by composting plant-based materials instead of just sending them off to the landfill.


  • Keep it Professional. Have your garbage collected by a local service that can handle trash more effectively. If none are available, ask around for any existing programs that can help or create a system yourself with your neighbors.


Common Mistakes

  • It’s the law. Depending on where you live and how many people live there, burning garbage may be illegal and could cost you serious fines.


Further Reading

Burning Leaves is Bad News

Composting 101

Garbage Disposals

Trash Compactors


  1. The Green Guy January 14, 2010
  2. Maker Breaker January 14, 2010
  3. Christina January 14, 2010
  4. Genna January 15, 2010
  5. Maribeth T January 18, 2010
  6. Angie January 26, 2010
  7. Mike March 11, 2012

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