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Smoke and burning

Bonfire information

A garden bonfire is often seen as a quick and easy way to dispose of garden waste, but unfortunately it may cause a nuisance to your neighbours.

Alternative methods of disposing of garden waste include, recycling the waste by composting, making leaf mould, or using grass clippings as a soil mulch. If the waste is not suitable for any of these treatments then you can request a bulky waste collection.

If you do burn garden waste, take care that no nuisance is caused to your neighbours. If in doubt consult your neighbours first, and follow these guidelines:

  • make sure the material to be burnt is as dry as possible - household rubbish, petrol or oil should not be used to light the fire
  • fires should not be lit on days when the weather is damp or misty or when there has been heavy rain and the waste is wet
  • don't light fires if the smoke will be blown towards other people's houses or across roads
  • don't light fires when neighbours have washing hanging out to dry

The law on garden bonfires

It's an offence to cause a statutory nuisance to people in the neighbourhood through the creation of smoke. A nuisance is generally considered to be a persistent act which causes harm or substantially interferes with your neighbours' wellbeing, comfort, or enjoyment of their land.


Let us know about a nuisance bonfire by using Report It. Choose 'Air Quality & Smoke Pollution' from the drop-down menu, then tick 'Bonfire smoke or smell'.

Smoke Control Areas

Nearly all of Middlesbrough is covered by domestic smoke control orders.

Being in a Smoke Control Area doesn't mean you're prohibited from having an open fire in your home, but you do need to ensure that only authorised fuels are burnt and the fireplace, room heater or boiler is an exempted appliance for use in a smoke control area.

To find out if your home lies within a smoke control area please contact us on:

Phone: 01642 726001 (Monday to Thursday, 8.30am to 5pm, and Friday, 8.30am to 4.30pm)

Commercial burning

The Clean Air Act 1993 prohibits the emitting of black smoke from trade or business premises. Black smoke from open fires occurs especially when plastics, rubber or man-made materials are burned.

Commercial premises also have a duty to dispose of their waste in an appropriate manner. Waste from a commercial premises is also called controlled waste and it's likely that an offence will have been committed if the waste is burnt at the premises as a means of disposal.

Cable burning

The burning of cable is carried out to remove the plastic or other insulation materials from waste cable before selling the recovered metal (often copper) to a scrap merchant. Burning gives off highly polluting and toxic smoke, and is an offence under the Clean Air Act 1993.

The burning operation may take place within a scrap yard or more commonly it will be conducted on open land. If you witness cable burning taking place or you're aware of a location where it occurs please let us know by contacting the Environment Contact Centre on 01642 726001.