Why Burning Yard Waste Is Bad

Burning yard waste such as leaves, grass and twigs is a bad idea for a lot of reasons, as the smoke poses a danger to human health and the environment, and frequently results in dangerous wildfires. Although a lot of municipalities allow burning in certain circumstances, others ban burning of yard waste entirely. Composting is a better option, as it returns helpful nutrients into the ground.

Air Pollution

Burning yard waste discharges numerous damaging chemicals that affect human health, including carbon monoxide, dioxins, ozone-forming substances, sulfur oxide and particulate matter. Meanwhile, the Washington State Department of Ecology notes which smoke from burning yard waste could be just as harmful as cigarette smoke. Even more substances are released when burning yard waste is moist, as the waste burns gradually. Some people today experience asthma attacks or other respiratory issues as a consequence of exposure to the smoke, which can be particularly damaging to the elderly, the young, and people with conditions such as emphysema or bronchitis. Sometimes, toxins stay in the body for several decades.

Soil and Water Pollution

Smoke rises and rain cleanses the atmosphere, washing pipe particles across the ground where they’re eventually filtered through the soil and to the water supply. The water enters lakes, rivers and wetlands, where it generates an unhealthy habitat for fish and other aquatic life. Hydrocarbons and other allergens often boost the development of green algae, which chokes out other marine life. In regions with porous soil, polluted water may affect the drinking water and the food supply.

Wildfire Danger

Burning yard waste creates a risk of dangerous home and forest fires, as lawn fires escape control quickly and therefore are difficult to contain, particularly on a breezy day. Fire danger is increased throughout late spring, even when dead, dry foliage remains on the ground from winter, and in summer when grass and weeds are dry and fragile. The cost of suppressing uncontrolled flames is high for local government, fire districts and homeowners.


Composting is an effective, environmentally safe method to recycle yard waste, and the compost is used to enhance lawns, vegetable gardens and flower beds, or it’s implemented as a mulch around trees and shrubs. Generally, compost is composed of not just yard waste, but kitchen waste such as egg shells, coffee grounds and vegetable peelings. Many communities provide composting applications, including handy curbside collection bins or drop-off applications. Yard waste such as leaves and twigs can be chopped up with a lawnmower and used as mulch on yard or around trees and shrubs. For larger branches, chippers are available for lease.

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