Legal versus illegal burningInformation for property owners and renters
Materials you are allowed to burn outdoors
Contact your local fire authority before you start burning any materials to find out if you need to obtain a burning permit.
- Brush, leaves and other vegetative yard debris - Where not prohibited by local ordinance, leaf burning and burning of plant clippings and brush is allowed anywhere in the state, as long as weather conditions do not pose a fire hazard. However, leaf burning is discouraged because of the air pollution it causes and because of the benefits of composting and mulching with these materials.
- Clean, unrecyclable paper and clean, unpainted, untreated wood - Individual homeowners may burn small quantities of of these materials. Local ordinance can override this allowance. This is especially true in populated areas such as southeastern Wisconsin, where most municipalities have banned or severely limited open burning. Paper and cardboard can now be recycled in all communities, and recycling is the best disposal method for these items.
Materials that MAY NOT be burned by individual property owners
The DNR's administrative rules of the Air Management and Waste & Materials Management Programs prohibit anyone from burning any of the following materials under any conditions:
- oily substances, such as oily or greasy rags, oil filters, etc.;
- painted/stained/treated wood;
- plastics of any kind, including plastic bottles and plastic bags;
- shingles and tar paper;
- tires and other rubber products;
- vinyl (i.e., siding);
- structures of any kind (homes, barns, sheds, etc.); and
- agricultural plastics/plastic film.
These prohibitions apply to individual property owners (or renters) as well as to business and industry.
What you can do instead of burning household and yard wastes
Instead of burning, the DNR recommends the following alternatives.
- Reduce usage - buy in bulk or larger quantities and demand less packaging on the products you buy.
- Reuse items - find someone else who can use it, have a yard sale or donate it to a resale organization.
- Recycle newspaper, office paper, cardboard, corrugated cardboard, magazines, aluminum, metal and acceptable plastics.
- Compost leaves and plant clippings. Consult DNR staff, University of Wisconsin-Extension and your local government to find out whether local ordinances allow you to compost raw vegetables, bread, egg shells and coffee grounds.
- Chip brush and clean wood to make mulch or decorative chips, or use it as heating fuel in wood stoves or boilers.
- Dispose of allowable waste materials at a licensed landfill. For more information about what items may be disposed of at licensed landfills, contact the Recycling Program at your DNR regional office or service center.