Burning of waste ~ Not in my back yard!

The burning of waste is illegal and is subject to prosecution.

Burning of waste is not only a nuisance to neighbours; it can release many harmful chemicals into the air you breathe.  Many people may think that they are doing the right thing in reducing the amount of waste going to landfill and saving money but they are both causing long term environmental pollution and interfering with the lives of others living in their area.  Burning waste in your home or garden can damage your health, as well as that of your children and your neighbours.  Such illegal practices lead to the release of toxic dioxins which are a real hazard for peoples’ health and the environment.

Burning of waste is illegal ~ Credit Dept. of Environmental Conservation

Burning of waste is illegal ~ Credit Dept. of Environmental Conservation

In September 2009, a law concerning waste disposal by burning came into force. These regulations make explicit the offence of disposal of waste by uncontrolled burning and prohibits such disposal within the curtilage of a dwelling. If reported, there is a hefty fine to be paid but the threat of this hasn’t stopped the back yard burning of waste which is still the norm in some households across the country. The term ‘backyard burning’ also refers to the burning of any waste in open fires, ranges and other solid fuel appliances or in the open. It includes the burning of green waste and also to the burning of waste on building sites.

Why is it still a common place sight around the country? – are people not aware of the risks to their health and the damage caused to the environment, is it to avoid paying for regular waste collection services, do they believe they are reducing waste or is it just too inconvenient to separate waste and reuse or recycle it?  Years ago it was traditional to burn waste but today there is absolutely no excuse for it!

Stop before you strike that match! 

Photo Credit: www.wikihow.com

Photo Credit: www.wikihow.com

Today, bleached paper, plastic packaging or plastic products, and printed materials with glues, plastic coatings and coloured inks make up a large portion of society’s waste. When these items are burned in low temperature fires like those that take place in a backyard burn barrel, very high levels of toxic chemicals and fine particulate matter are released with the smoke. Many of these toxins don’t readily break down, leading to accumulation and persistence in the environment.

What harm am I doing I hear you ask!

Backyard burning is far more harmful to our health than previously thought. The compounds in the smoke that comes from the burning can increase the risk of heart disease, aggravate respiratory ailments such as asthma and emphysema, and cause rashes, nausea, or headaches. Backyard burning also produces harmful quantities of dioxins, a group of highly toxic chemicals that settle on crops and in our waterways where they eventually wind up in our food and affect our health.

Burning of waste - not in my backyard

 Photo Credit:  chemicalfreelife.org

Sounds scary doesn’t it?  Well it is! And you need to STOP!


Studies have shown that only small amounts of chlorinated materials in waste are required to support dioxin formation when burning waste. This means that even when materials containing high levels of chlorine, such as PVC, are removed from household waste, burning the waste still creates dioxins because nearly all household waste contains trace amounts of chlorine.  Much of the dioxins created and released into the air through backyard burning settle on plants. These plants are, in turn, eaten by meat and dairy animals, which store the dioxins in their fatty tissue.

People are then exposed to dioxins primarily by eating the meat, fish, and dairy products, especially those high in fat. Backyard burning occurs most commonly in rural areas where dioxin emissions can more easily be deposited on animal feed crops and grazing lands. These dioxins then accumulate in the fats of dairy cows, beef, poultry, and pigs, making human consumption of these harmful chemicals is difficult to avoid.

Particle pollution

Microscopic particles with a diameter smaller than a human hair are released from back yard burning and pollute the air. Shutting the windows and doors of your home will not protect you from fine particle pollution because the particles are so small that they will infiltrate even the best quality double-paned windows and doors. These particles that are small enough to get into the lungs and can cause numerous health problems. Particles can aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis, and have been associated with heartbeat irregularities and heart attacks. People with heart or lung disease, the elderly, and children are at highest risk from exposure to particles.

Make clean air a priority!

Make clean air a priority!

Carbon Monoxide

Another major pollutant generated by backyard burning is carbon monoxide. At low levels of exposure to Carbon Monoxide, humans may experience a variety of neurological symptoms including headache, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. Carbon monoxide  is a colorless, odorless gas emitted from combustion processes.  At extremely high levels Carbon Monoxide can cause death!


Backyard burning also produces ash residue, which can contain toxic metals such as mercury, lead, chromium, and arsenic.  These metals can be toxic when ingested. When a person ingests hazardous amounts of lead, for example, he or she may experience high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, kidney damage, and brain damage. Unaware of the potential danger, some people scatter the ash in their gardens or bury it on their property. Garden vegetables can absorb and accumulate these metals, which can make them dangerous to eat. Children playing in the yard or garden can incidentally ingest soil containing these metals. Also, rain can wash the ash into groundwater and surface water, contaminating drinking water and food.

What are the alternatives I hear you ask?

Avoid making waste in the first place and you won’t have to worry about disposing of waste or recycling it later. Changing your habits is the key — think about ways you can reduce your waste when you shop, work and play. There’s a ton of ways for you to reduce waste, save yourself some time and money, and be good to the environment at the same time.

Photo Credit: Backyard Burning  by Theodore W. Marcy,

Photo Credit: Backyard Burning by Theodore W. Marcy,

Follow these simple steps and STOP BACK YARD BURNING TODAY!

  • Avoid over packaged products and choose packaging that can be recycled
  • Separate your waste and if you don’t have a recycle bin take recyclable waste to your nearest Civic Amenity Centres
  • Compost Organic Waste
  • Use only Properly Permitted and Regulated waste collectors and waste facilities.

Does back yard burning still take place in your locality? What steps do you take to reduce your waste both at home and in the workplace?

Some other great blog posts worth reading on this subject:

Should we be burning plastic – that’s the burning question?

A new breed of gangsters




EPA Improves Access to Public Information on Emissions Trading

Press Release 10th June 2010

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) operates the EU Emissions Trading Scheme in Ireland. Over 100 major industrial and institutional sites in Ireland are covered by the Scheme (over 12,000 sites in the EU as a whole).  These include power generation, other combustion, cement, lime, glass and ceramic plants and oil refining. Also included are large companies in areas such as food & drink, pharmaceuticals and semi-conductors. Each company must record their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions every year onto the National Emissions Trading Registry which is an on-line web-based system which tracks GHG emissions and records allowance holdings.

The Environmental Protection Agency has now made information from Ireland’s National Emission Trading Registry publicly available in line with the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol.

This publicly available information covers:

  • Account holders authorised to hold Kyoto units in an account on Ireland’s National Emission Trading Registry.
  • Unit holdings by account type (e.g. Party account or entity account).

To view this information please click on the Publicly Accessible Information link on the homepage of Ireland’s National Emission Trading Registry.

Further information on accounts in Ireland’s National Emissions Trading Registry (including annual emissions data for each installation) can be found on the website of the EU’s Community Independent Transaction Log (CITL).

Find out more information on the operation of the Emissions Trading Scheme in Ireland.

Source: http://www.epa.ie/news/pr/2010/name,28658,en.html

Climate Change Conference

Eco Evolution were invited to the climate change conference by the Wexford County Development Board.

The speakers on the day were from the EPA, Wexford County Council, NUI Maynooth, Teagasc and Courtown Waterworld.

Wexford County Development Board, (CDB), wanted to highlight and discuss the implications of climate change. The CDB launched its strategy “Action for change 2009-2012” last year. Action 7 calls for a  local multi-agency response to climate change. The aim of the conference was to raise local awareness and consider how Wexford can adapt to the likely impacts.

In time, the impacts of climate change will be more apparent in Wexford. There continues to be debate but predicted effects include:

  • More intense storm and rainfall events
  • Water shortages in the Summer and the need to irrigate crops
  • Effects on fish species that are sensitive to small temperature changes
  • Accelerated coastal errosion

The purpose of this conference was to localise the issue, to highlight the effects of climate change for our economy and public services and our citizens and their environment. The conference illustrated the impact of climate change at County level and also the possible adjustments that may be needed to manage longer term change.

For full details of the Conference speakers presentations follow the link below:





No further carbon credits needed by Ireland

EPA Press Release: 28th April 2010.

  • Latest greenhouse gas emissions projections show Ireland will comply with Kyoto Protocol without any more purchases
  • Achieving more stringent 2020 targets will require further reduction measures yet to be identified
  • Growth in transport emissions projected to slow significantly to 2020 compared with annual growth rates 1990-2008
  • Carbon sinks (such as increased afforestation) crucial for 2020 target

The EPA today released projected emissions of Ireland’s greenhouse gases up to 2020. These projections, produced on an annual basis, give a picture of Ireland’s ability to meet international targets with respect to greenhouse gas emissions and update those published in March 2009.

The projections are reported on a sectoral basis and highlight, once again, that the key sectors contributing to greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland are agriculture, energy and transport.

Commenting on the projections Dr Mary Kelly, Director General, EPA said:

“National greenhouse gas projections are important in understanding Ireland’s greenhouse gas profile in the medium term, and in assessing the effectiveness of policy measures designed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.  The projections released today reflect the effects of the economic downturn, and the anticipated recovery, based on ESRI economic forecasts. Even with reductions due to the downturn it is projected that Ireland will still be 2.8 million tonnes per annum of CO2e above the non-ETS target in 2020 taking the most ambitious scenarios set out in Government policies and assuming that forestry sinks are fully included.”

Complete EPA Report: http://www.epa.ie/news/pr/2010/name,28091,en.html

Sustainable Development Model predicts potential environmental impact of future economic activity – EPA Press Release

Date released: Feb 18 2010, 12:05 PM

New research, published today by the EPA, shows how economic forecasts can be used to project waste generation and emissions of pollutants across Ireland.  The ISus (Irish Sustainable Development) Model is based on the work of a three-year study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), funded under the EPA STRIVE research programme.

Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr. Mary Kelly, Director General, EPA said:

“This model, developed by the ESRI, is very welcome. We are all aware of the use of GDP and other statistics to measure economic change. These, however, leave many things unmeasured, including the environment.
The ISus model provides a link between economic forecasting and potential environmental impacts.  This enables us to use the expertise of the ESRI, in relation to economic data, and link this with the environmental data produced by the EPA. The results will aid policy and decision makers to diagnose environmental problems, identify pressure points, target policy interventions and assess their success.
For example, projections on the generation of biodegradable waste – how much and where – could be a very useful tool for planning the location and required capacity for waste management infrastructure in the future.”


 ISus covers more than 25 potential pollutants (to air, water and waste) emanating from 20 economic sectors.

Some of the findings from the research:

  • In relation to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: Ireland faces a significant challenge in meeting its target for 2020.
  • In relation to waste generation: projections from the model suggest that Ireland will also have great difficulty meeting EU limits on landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste.
  • In relation to carbon tax: it illustrates the spatial distribution of households likely to pay the highest tax, with those in the commuter belts likely to pay most.
    The data show that in the period 1990 – 2006, while the economy was growing strongly, some emissions (sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds) have fallen, while others (carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion, dioxins)  have increased.  ISus is able to attribute these changes to economic growth, structural changes in the economy and technological and behavioural change.


“The EPA is very happy to be working in collaboration with ESRI on this project and hopes to be able to reap the benefits of the work in producing forecasts and projections for environmental impacts based on different scenarios in the future”said Dr Kelly.

 The report Ireland’s Sustainable Development Model  is available on the EPA website.

The findings from this research are being presented today at a seminar on Environmental Projections and Policy for Ireland in the Economic and Social Research Institute.

Editor’s Notes:
This work was funded through the EPA’s Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for the Environment Programme (STRIVE). The programme employs a strategic and targeted approach to protecting and improving the natural environment through the provision and accumulation of scientific research and knowledge. Funding for the EPA STRIVE Programme is provided through the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the programme is administered by the EPA on their behalf.