Burn Barrels...

A thing of the past...

State Law

Wisconsin law prohibits anyone from burning garbage or recyclables

These materials include:

  • Wet, combustible rubbish such as wet cardboard or paper
  • Oily substances such as oily or greasy rags, oil filters, etc
  • Asphalt shingles or tar paper
  • Plastics of any kind including household containers and retail bags
  • Rubber products like tires or hoses
  • Aluminum, steel or bi-metal beverage bottles, cans & food containers
  • Glass bottles & jars
  • Cardboard, newspapers & inserts and magazines
  • Tires
  • Motor oil & filters
  • Lead-acid batteries
  • Appliances
  • Electronics

Property owners may not burn structures like houses, sheds, cabins, garages, etc. at any time.

It's Not Your Grandpa's Garbage

Unfortunately, for many rural families burning garbage still is common. Decades ago, garbage did not contain as many plastics and man-made materials as it does today. Burning garbage today creates many health and environmental issues which is why Wisconsin law prohibits burning garbage.

Health Issues

Burning trash can cause long-term health problems. The toxic chemicals released during burning include nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and polycyclic organic matter (POMs). Burning plastic and treated wood also releases heavy metals and toxic chemicals, such as dioxin.

Other chemicals released while burning plastic include benzo(a)pyrene (BAP) and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have both been shown to cause cancer. If agricultural bags or containers are contaminated with pesticides or other harmful substances, those will also be released into the air.

  • Smoke from burning common household trash can irritate eyes and aggravate breathing conditions like asthma or emphysema, especially in children and the elderly.
  • Some plastics contain petroleum-based chemicals that create toxic emission like hydrochloric acid and dioxin. Formaldehyde, the most common hazardous air pollutant, is almost always produced when materials are burned in the presence of moisture. It is the most prevalent reason for respiratory irritation complaints. Toxic emissions like these affect local and regional air and water quality.

Environmental Issues

Burning prohibited materials, such as garbage, plastic and painted or treated wood is harmful to the environment because these materials release toxic chemicals that pollute our air. Polluted air can be inhaled by humans and animals, and deposited in the soil, open lakes and streams and on plants.

Some of the most dangerous chemicals created and released during burning are those from burning plastics, such as dioxins, which are byproducts formed when chlorine-containing products are burned. Dioxins tend to adhere to the waxy surface of leaves and enter the food chain in this way. Even if certain types of plastic (such as polyethylene or polypropylene) do not contain chlorine, other materials attached to or burned with the plastic may be a chlorine source.

  • Smoke can contain formaldehyde, arsenic, benzene, carbon monoxide, dioxin, hydrochloric acid, lead and sulfuric acid. Common household items that seem nonhazardous may release harmful pollutants when burned.
  • The leading cause of forest fires in Wisconsin is open burning of garbage, causing an average of 40% of all forest fires annually.

How to avoid burning garbage

Reduce

It's possible to reduce the amount of household waste generated in the first place by buying in bulk or buying products with less packaging, considering the lifespan of your products and choosing products with longer lifespans, selecting reusable instead of single-use items or choosing to repair an item rather than replacing it.

Donate or Repurpose

Many options are available for donating, selling or upcycling items you wish to get rid of. Consider holding a rummage sale, post the item for sale in your community or online, look for a local donation center or search for project ideas online.

Recycle

Check out your local recycling program to learn how to recycle right and how your community's recycling program works. Learn more about Wisconsin recycling requirements.

Compost

Mother nature's recycling! Learn how to compost at home.

Landfill or garbage collection services

Many communities provide garbage collection services. Check with your local municipality to find out more. If you need collection services, large item pick-up or a dumpster click here for more information or call (608) 339-9178.