Burning of Waste

All businesses in the UK have a duty under the Environmental Protection Act to ensure that their waste is stored, collected, transported and disposed of or recycled properly and in accordance with the law. The burning of waste connected with trade or commercial activities is illegal in nearly all cases and the law is much stricter and the penalties for causing a nuisance are high.

Generally the burning of commercial waste is regulated and enforced by the Environment Agency through permitting and prosecution. The EA have produced a very useful leaflet available to download on the right hand side menu of this page.


Duty of Care

Sections 33 and 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 places a Duty of Care on waste producers. This requires waste producers to ensure that all waste produced, stored or transferred does not adversely impact upon the environment or human health. The duty of care makes it illegal to burn commercial waste on site, or to generally dispose of waste without a waste transfer note but these transfer notes are not yet mandatory legally to date in Scilly by the Environment Agency.


If the smoke, fly ash or gritty particles associated with a commercial bonfire cause a nuisance to other people then this is a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The Council can serve a notice to abate the nuisance (stop it) or prevent it happening again. If the person responsible does not comply with this notice then they can be fined up to £20,000. If we can’t trace a commercial operator such as a builder to serve a notice then we will serve it on the person employing them instead, requiring them to control their contractor.

Dark Smoke - The Clean Air Act 1993

If a bonfire is producing 'dark smoke' by the burning of trade or commercial waste on commercial land then the persons responsible maybe liable to fines of up to £20,000 after a successful prosecution in court. The Council does not need to serve a notice first. The kind of items which we are concerned about are plastics, rubber or wood if the wood is painted or treated.


If smoke drifts across the highway where it causes (or might cause) an accident, this is an offence under the Highways Acts (as amended). There is a maximum penalty of £5,000 for this offence, and you could also face possible private action for damages by people who suffer loss or harm due to your actions e.g. someone who is hurt in a car accident due to the smoke that you have produced.

Cable Burning

The burning of cable to recover the metal core is a specific offence under the Clean Air Act 1993. Cable burning can only be carried out on premises authorised for those purposes. If it is carried out on unauthorised premises there is a maximum penalty of £5,000 under the Clean Air Act 1993 and higher penalties under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Proper Disposal

Instead of burning materials your contractors or you must arrange for them to be taken away to a proper waste disposal site. DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO FLY TIP. This is a serious offence under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and carries a maximum penalty of £20,000 and up to 6 months imprisonment in the Magistrates Court, or unlimited fines and up to 2 years imprisonment at Crown Court. The maximum sentence is even higher (5 years) for dumping special waste which may be harmful to health.


For further information contact environmentalhealth@scilly.gov.uk