On-farm green waste burning allowed as final measure until 2023

Exemption in waste management legislation will allow farmers, as a last resort and when no alternatives are available, to dispose of green waste generated by agricultural practices, by burning
On-farm green waste burning allowed as final measure until 2023

Provision for the burning of waste relates solely to material consisting of uncontaminated wood, trees, tree trimmings, leaves, brush, or other similar waste generated by agricultural practices. File picture: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

The Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 extended to December 31, 2022, the provision for the burning, as a final measure, of permitted green waste generated by agricultural practices.

With much confusion over the legality of burning green waste (for example, hedgerow material cut in the permitted period from September 1 to February 28), there was welcome clarification recently of the legal position.

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said in the Dáil that under the Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulations 2009, burning of household, garden, commercial or industrial waste is not permitted.

He said an exemption is provided in the legislation to allow farmers, as a last resort and when no alternatives are available, to dispose of green waste generated by agricultural practices, by burning. The local authority must be notified in advance of any such activity.

"The burning of this green waste is a matter of concern and leads to localised air pollution. More broadly, health problems associated with air pollution are widely known and acknowledged." said Mr Ryan.

He was answering a Dáil question from Wexford Fine Gael TD Paul Kehoe, who also asked Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue what was the current procedure and regulation surrounding the burning of old scrub and bushes off agricultural land.

Mr McConalogue said the Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulation 2009 made it an offence to dispose of waste by uncontrolled burning. 

"These regulations are under the remit of the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications. Provision by way of derogation has been available for the burning of permitted green waste generated by agricultural practices from September 1 to February 28."

This provision for the burning of waste relates solely to material consisting of uncontaminated (free of dangerous substances, preservatives or other artificial impregnation or coating) wood, trees, tree trimmings, leaves, brush, or other similar waste generated by agricultural practices, but excluding garden and park wastes and cemetery wastes and wastes arising from infrastructural development works, provided that such burning is done as a final measure following the application of the following waste hierarchy:

  • Waste arisings are reduced in accordance with best agricultural practice;
  • Waste is reused where practicable;
  • Is recycled through shredding and use as compost or wood chippings, where practicable; and 
  • Is salvaged for use as fuel where practicable.

Where none of the options is practicable or economically viable, such waste may be disposed of by burning subject to the following conditions:

  • The person carrying out the disposal shall take all reasonable measures to limit the overall nuisance or possibilities for endangering human health or causing environmental pollution or damage to adjoining hedgerows or habitats;
  • No accelerants may be used when undertaking the disposal activity;
  • The person carrying out the disposal must notify the local authority concerned in advance of the intention to carry out the disposal and provide the necessary information.

A local authority may issue a notice to a person outlining steps that shall be taken regarding the burning of the waste.

The Wildlife Act 1976 prohibits the burning of vegetation growing on uncultivated land between March 1 and August 31 annually. 

In relation to the six-month period between September 1 and the end of February, the Wildlife Act 1976 does not prohibit such burning, although special rules may apply in certain areas such as in Special Areas of Conservation.

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