Bonfire guidelines: Council urges all to consider more environmentally friendly alternatives

Authored by Mary
Posted: Sunday, May 9, 2021 - 23:31

There has been an increase in the number of people having bonfires across East Devon, prompting a call for residents to remain respectful to their neighbours and consider more environmentally friendly ways of disposing their waste.

Bonfires are not the best disposal method for waste, so really should be a last resort. Not only can they be risk to the person overseeing it but also properties if it gets out of hand.

They can also cause toxic fumes depending on what is burnt – especially plastics, causing poor air quality, becoming a nuisance to neighbours and other people nearby.

Other mainstream forms of waste disposal are more environmentally friendly and safer!

East Devon District Council (EDDC) offers a number of kerbside collection services for recycling and bulky (large) waste.

It also has nearly 16,000 subscribers to kerbside green waste collections – subscriptions cost just £48 a year!

Resident are also encouraged to make the most out of our recycling centres.

If you have ruled out all other disposal methods and the only way is to have a bonfire, please consider the following:


  • Inform your neighbours.
  • Burn only during the day.
  • Locate the bonfire as far away from neighbours as possible.
  • Have a small fire – it must be controllable and hot enough to burn with minimal smoke.
  • Consider the weather – ideally no wind or a light breeze, blowing away from nearby houses. Monitor changes in the wind/smoke direction.
  • Only burn suitable materials – Materials must be dry - this will burn quickly and give off minimal smoke and smell. You may be able to burn dry garden waste, clean wood, paper or card.
  • Supervise the burning of waste - do not leave it unattended.
  • Have water available to extinguish the fire.
  • If renting check for the approval of your Landlord or Housing provider.


  • Have many bonfires – neighbours are more likely to complain if you often have bonfires.
  • Burn the following: household rubbish, rubber, oil, green garden waste, animal bedding, plastic, tyres, foam or paint - these can produce potentially toxic dark smoke which is unacceptable and might be an offence.
  • Leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder - douse it with water if necessary and make sure it is out and will not continue to smoke once left.
  • Use an accelerant to light a fire - oil, petrol or methylated spirits could cause harm to yourself and the environment.
  • Burn furniture - it is likely to emit significant dark smoke and toxic pollutants.
  • Burn at weekends or bank holidays - when people want to enjoy their homes and gardens.
  • Burn during foggy conditions – the smoke will not be able to disperse.

Complaining about a bonfire:

If you are affected by a problem of regular bonfire smoke, you may consider the following options:

Approach your neighbour first - explain the problem to them. You might find this awkward, but they may not be aware of the problem and it may make them more considerate when planning and lighting a bonfire in the future.

If you aren’t able to talk to them, perhaps put a note through their door explaining the problem.

If this approach fails – contact the Environmental Health service by filling in an on-line form or emailing You can ring us on 01395 517456.