By Christabel - posted on June 21, 2021

Wood burning summer campaign

Southampton City Council, Eastleigh Borough Council, New Forest District Council and Winchester City Council are working in partnership with local environmental charity the Environment Centre (tEC) to support residents in avoiding air pollution from household burning and improving air quality for their health, their community and the environment.

While the winter campaign focuses on burning in the home (open fires and stoves) the summer campaign will focus on burning outside of the home (bonfires). Households thinking of having a bonfire will be asked if they can avoid burning or burn cleaner and burn safely? The key message is to think twice before lighting a bonfire and consider alternatives to burning. With an increased use of fire pits and chimineas to keep warm when meeting outside, the advice is don’t put any old wood on the fire, but use ‘ready to burn’ or smokeless fuels.

Bonfires can cause harmful particulate air pollution at home and in your neighbourhood. This negatively impacts the health of your family and community, affecting your heart and lungs.

Instead of having a bonfire…

  • Compost garden waste at home or through council garden waste collections.
  • Dispose of household waste safely through council general and bulky waste collections, waste and recycling centres and recycling or donating where possible.

If you need to have a bonfire…

  • Only burn dry, untreated wood and not rubber tyres, plastics or wood with varnish or paint.
  • Consider your neighbours, community and wildlife before building and lighting a fire.
  • Be aware of the impacts of air pollution – don’t allow fires to smoulder or produce a lot of dark smoke, and avoid days with poor air quality or unsuitable weather conditions.
  • Follow fire safety advice – don’t leave a fire unattended, keep water nearby and children and pets away.

Councillor Steve Galton, Southampton City Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment says, “We are pleased to be continuing this work alongside our neighbouring councils with the aim of encouraging people to think before lighting bonfires. The Council’s environmental health service can take enforcement action where smoke from regular burning causes a nuisance to neighbours, so we suggest that you put things like grass cuttings into compost bins or our garden waste service, wood to be stored until dry enough to use and household items to be reused or taken to our Household Waste and Recycling Centres.” 

Councillor Rupert Kyrle, Eastleigh Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment says, “We are asking residents to think twice before lighting a bonfire this summer. Air pollution produced by bonfires can affect the health of those around you, so it’s best to avoid bonfires, use our waste disposal services, and only use ‘ready to burn’ fuels on fire pits and chimineas.”

Councillor Mark Steele, New Forest District Council’s portfolio holder for partnering and wellbeing says, “Avoiding burning or burning in a better way is so important for the New Forest. We receive around a hundred complaints each year about bonfires and the air quality issues they cause.  It’s important that people stop and think for a minute, before lighting a bonfire. There are better ways to dispose of waste for example by using our garden waste service, booking a bulky waste collection, recycling items, or taking the waste to a local tip. It is by our own individual actions that we can all make a difference to the environment.”

Councillor Lynda Murphy, Winchester City Council’s Cabinet Member of Climate Emergency says, “With more people at home susceptible to the side effects of inhaling smoke due to respiratory illnesses like Covid-19, it’s likely that your neighbours will be adversely affected by wood burning at home. This year, we’re encouraging residents to sign up to our new garden waste scheme here (Garden Waste Service – Winchester City Council) as an alternative. If you’re thinking of having a bonfire or BBQ this summer, please take the opportunity to have a discussion with your neighbours first. You might be unaware of just how big an impact it will have on them.”

Adam Goulden, Chief Executive, the Environment Centre (tEC) says, “We have found that many residents are not aware that household burning contributes to harmful particulate air pollution, which negatively impacts the health of their family and community. As our awareness campaign moves into the summer months, we hope to continue our work engaging local communities and stakeholders on wood burning in homes and gardens and how they can help improve air quality.”

For more information and advice on wood burning, see our website or contact cleanair@environmentcentre.com.