Open Burning of Waste
What is it? When is it legal, and when is it a crime?
In the Fall each year, the number of complaints at
County Departments regarding open burning of waste increases
dramatically. People are spending more time outside and cleaning up
their property. Some people are choosing to do so by burning the waste.
Open burning of waste is generally prohibited in
the State of Illinois under Section 9 (c) of the Illinois Environmental
Protection Act (Act). This section states, "No person shall cause or
allow the open burning of refuse, conduct any salvage operation by open
burning, or cause or allow the burning of any refuse in any chamber not
specifically designed for the purpose and approved by the Agency (IEPA)."
"Open burning" is defined as "the combustion of
any matter in the open or in an open dump." "Refuse," is defined as
"waste," or discarded material.
Section 9(a) of the Act states, "No person shall
cause of threaten or allow the discharge or emission of any contaminant
into the environment...so as to cause or tend to cause air pollution."
The Act defines "air pollution" as "the presence in the atmosphere of
one or more contaminants insufficient quantities and of such
characteristics and duration as to be injurious to human, plant, or
animal life, to health, or to property, or to unreasonably interfere
with the enjoyment of life or property."
The end of Section 9 of the Act states that the
Section shall not limit the burning of landscape waste on the property
where it was generated nor the burning of landscape waste at sites
provided and supervised by any unit of local government located in a
county with a population less than 400,000.
Section 9(c) of the Act allowed the Illinois
Pollution Control Board to "adopt regulations permitting the open
burning of refuse in certain cases if no harm will result from such
burning, or if any alternative method of disposing of such refuse would
create a safety hazard so extreme as to justify the pollution that would
result from such burning." The Board did so through Subtitle B, Part
237, which established specific regulations regarding open burning.
These regulations again prohibit open burning, with the following
exemptions, unless they cause air pollution, and
if certain conditions are met:
-open burning of agricultural waste,
domicile waste, and landscape waste;
-setting fires to combat or limit existing
fires (ie. wildfires);
-burning fuels for legitimate campfire,
recreational, and cooking purposes, or in domestic fireplaces;
-burning waste gases, such as in refinery
-small open flames for heating tar,
welding and the like.
The conditions which must be met to allow for the
open burning of agricultural, domicile, and landscape waste are:
1) The waste must be generated on
the premises (i.e. cannot be hauled in from elsewhere);
2) Atmospheric conditions at the
time of burning must readily dissipate the smoke;
3) The burning cannot take place
in restricted areas or municipalities with burning bans;
4) The burning must not create a
visibility hazard on roadways, railroad tracks and/or
5) The burning must not cause "air
The Illinois EPA may grant permits for open
burning if it serves the public interest, and the appropriate permit
application is filed with and approved by them. Permits may be issued
for the following activities: 1) fire fighting training; 2) burning
landscape waste with an air curtain destructor; 3) in a disaster area -
open burning of clean wooden building debris, landscape waste, and
agricultural waste caused by a disaster.
Under no circumstance is "garbage" ("refuse
derived from handling, processing, preparation, cooking, and consumption
of food or food products") or trade waste allowed to be burned. "Trade
waste" is defined as "any refuse resulting from the prosecution of any
trade, business, industry, commercial venture, utility or service
activity, and any government or institutional activity, whether or not
for profit." Tires, pallets, insulation off of wire, and general
construction and demolition waste, are examples of trade waste which are
often burned illegally.
In practice, the Ogle County Solid Waste
Management Department will investigate all complaints of dumping or open
burning of waste in unincorporated areas of the county. Open burning of
landscape waste on the property where it was generated in unincorporated
areas is not a violation of state law as long as all previously
described conditions are being met, and the burning is done at least 50
feet from the nearest residence. Common sense must also be used. Donít
leave a fire unattended, and donít burn when your neighbors are having a
picnic or hanging laundry out to dry!
The open burning of "domicile waste" (refuse
generated on single family domiciliary property as a result of
domiciliary activities) such as paper or cardboard, on the property
where it was generated may not be a violation until someone complains
about it. At that point it may be considered air pollution and may be
subject to enforcement.
People involved in open burning of waste could
face $500 administrative citations for dumping and burning waste, formal
enforcement, criminal misdemeanor charges, or county ordinance violation
In summary, the open burning of most waste is
generally prohibited. There are better ways to manage the waste. Regular
refuse pick-up and special small or large roll-off dumpster services are
available throughout the county. IEPA permitted landfills and transfer
stations are available in the region for those that wish to haul the
waste themselves. Recycling services are also available throughout much
of the county. Letís keep our air clean and dispose of waste properly.
For more information contact the Ogle County Solid Waste Management
Department, 909 W. Pines Road, Oregon, IL 61061, (815) 732-4020.