Guy Fawkes: Burning Rubbish on 5th November is Illegal

Just another excuse for fly-tipping criminals?

November 5th sees millions of people lighting bonfires to celebrate gunpowder, treason and plot on Guy Fawkes Night.

But many thousands of these bonfires will be hiding a filthy secret – unwanted waste going up in flames, releasing who knows what into the sky.

Burning waste on your bonfire is still fly-tipping and comes with the usual huge fines if you’re caught, says waste and recycling company

“We know a thing or two about the right way to get rid of trash”, says company spokesperson Mark Hall. “Don’t get burnt with a big fine for burning your rubbish. That would be rubbish,” he says. 

small bonfire burning.

Legacy of pollution 

Getting rid of waste can be such a dull and time-consuming task, that it can be tempting to take shortcuts to get rid of it as soon as possible – and with bonfire night on the horizon you could be tempted to shove your rubbish onto the fire so you never have to see it again.

However, that comes with the risk of releasing toxic fumes into the air, explosions, asbestos exposure, and leaving a legacy of pollution.

This is something Alex from Reading has experienced first-hand – “I saw someone bung a load of old motor trade waste onto a bonfire, and the resulting explosions as the oil cans went off were terrifying.”

It’s not just motor waste that environment officers have found lurking in the depths of bonfires up and down the UK, but everything from household rubbish, furniture and mattresses, to old caravans and boats.

Hall: “All of these things being burnt are responsible for causing irreparable damage to our environment, by polluting our air, soil, water and poisoning our plants and animals. 

“And who’s setting fire to boats?” he asks, “There can’t be that many disaffected Bullseye winners out there!”


Remember, remember the rules this November

So, what can you burn this bonfire night?

Legally, you are within your right to have a bonfire on November 5th without needing a permit, but there are Environment Agency rules to make sure you aren’t causing a nuisance or any harm to human health or the environment.

These include:

  • Only burn clean, dry, untreated and unpainted wood (painted wood constitutes a health hazard)
  • Only use a small amount of cardboard and paper to start the fire
  • Do not burn any plastic, rubber, glass, oils or metal
  • Make sure your fire is the right size for the event
  • Keep the fire secure and constantly watched

What about garden waste? Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s safe to burn just because it’s a natural product, as studies have shown that it can create 30 times the amount of smoke than burning logs on a stove, releasing more toxic fumes into the air and into your lungs and the surrounding environment.

How to have a zero waste Bonfire Night

Don’t get carried away by illegal waste carriers 

For those who are not planning on having a bonfire this year, there is still the worry about how your rubbish might be contributing to illegal fires this November.

“You need to be wary of people offering to collect rubbish, so make sure any waste collector you use is a trustworthy licensed waste carrier,” says spokesperson Mark Hall

“The last thing you want is for some rogue trader to take advantage and burn your rubbish to save themselves the hassle of illegally dumping it in a lay-by, or paying the fees for it to be correctly disposed of.”

Burning the wrong kind of waste could carry a fine up to £50,000, so make sure you don’t fall victim to a pyromaniac criminal this bonfire night because it could cost you more than a night of fun and flames this November.

free bins icon.

Have your waste collected

Get a fast FREE quote for your waste collection 0800 211 83 90

  • Free quote within 1 hr
  • Any type of waste
  • FREE bins and delivery
  • We cover all of the UK