How to reduce pollution from bonfires

Find information about the rules around domestic and commercial bonfires, how to make a complaint about a bonfire and safety guidance.

Where you can have a domestic bonfire

Legally, you can have a bonfire in any area of the city, as long as you do not cause nuisance to other people. 

In our densely populated city this is difficult. We recommend you do not have a bonfire unless there are no other options.

Read our guide to bonfires for households.

Use an alternative to bonfires

There are other ways to get rid of your green waste without using a bonfire.

You can:

The law says that you cannot have a bonfire if the smoke will cause a nuisance to other people. If you do cause a nuisance, you can be fined up to £5,000. 

How to reduce smoke and pollution from bonfires

If you must have a bonfire, follow our guidelines to help reduce air pollution and the impact on neighbours.

Make sure you:

  • only burn dry material
  • never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres or anything containing plastic, foam or paint 
  • never use old engine oil, methylated spirits or petrol to light or encourage the fire 

Where possible, tell your neighbours that you plan to have a fire. This will give them a chance to shut windows, bring clothes inside and so on.

Find more information about using solid fuels safely and legally.

When to avoid having a bonfire

You should avoid having a bonfire in unsuitable weather conditions. 

Smoke hangs in the air on damp still days and in the evening. If it’s windy, smoke can blow into neighbouring gardens and across roads.

Avoid having a bonfire at weekends and on bank holidays when people are likely to be out in their gardens.

Avoid having them on a day affected by industrial action. For example, if the fire service is on strike. 

How to have a safe bonfire

Never leave a bonfire unattended or leave it to smoulder. They can easily get out of control. Once the bonfire has died down, spray the embers with water to stop it catching fire again.

Build the bonfire away from sheds, fences and trees. Check there are no cables, like telephone wires, above the bonfire. Make sure children and pets can’t get near it.

Have a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby in case of emergencies.

Take care around bonfires. All clothes, even those labelled ‘low flammability,' can catch fire.

Make a complaint about a bonfire

If you're bothered by smoke from a neighbour’s bonfire, approach them to highlight the problem. They might not be aware that they’re causing a problem. 

Our Environmental Health and Licensing department can investigate the complaint under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

To contact the team you can send an email to, or phone 01273 294 266.

What you can burn on a commercial bonfire

If you have a commercial bonfire, you can only burn green waste that you’ve produced on site. You cannot burn any other materials.

These rules are set out in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Environment Agency enforces this.

We can take enforcement action against a business if they cause a statutory smoke nuisance. This can mean a fine of up to £20,000.