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If you have concerns or questions about open burning, contact one of these programs within the DNR.
Air Management
Waste & Materials Management

Facts on open burning for business, industry and municipalities in Wisconsin

Wisconsin businesses, industry and municipalities generally need an approved incinerator to burn waste materials, and are prohibited from doing any open burning - with one exception.

Under this exception, a business, industry or municipality may burn clean wood waste or brush after obtaining a license from the Waste and Materials Management Program to operate as a "woodburning facility" according to NR 502.11, Wis. Adm. Code [PDF exit DNR]. The license will include location, operation and design criteria that establish allowable burning conditions and determine how much material may be burned. For more information on requirements for a license, please contact your district Waste Management Program staff.

If a woodburning facility is located in an area subject to the Forestry Program’s forest fire control regulations under NR 30, Wis. Adm. Code [PDF exit DNR], the facility also will need to obtain a burning permit from a forest ranger or fire warden. The permit will include restrictions such as precautionary measures, weather conditions, location, time of day for burning, and length of the permit (usually issued for the calendar year).

Materials that MAY NOT be burned

The administrative rules of the Air Management and Waste & Materials Management Programs prohibit anyone from burning any of the following materials under any conditions:

Although small businesses, commercial enterprises and industries may burn clean wood waste or brush in their licensed woodburning facility, they are not allowed to use burn barrels (or other forms of open burning) to dispose of waste generated by the business. And municipalities may not issue burning permits allowing them to do so. However, the prohibition on burn barrels does not apply to small businesses in which the owners reside at the same location and cannot separate their business waste from their household waste.

Wisconsin's recycling law

Since Jan. 3, 1993, Wisconsin's Recycling Law has prohibited the disposal or burning of yard waste in solid waste facilities without using energy recovery (including commercial, municipal, industrial and government landfills, and woodburning facilities). Yard waste is defined as leaves, grass clippings, yard and garden debris and brush, including clean, woody vegetative matter smaller than six inches in diameter. However, a May 1994 law allows the DNR to grant woodburning facilities a conditional waiver to burn yard and garden brush.

As of Jan. 1, 1995, the Recycling Law requires that the following items may neither be burned at commercial, industrial or municipal facilities, nor sent to landfills for disposal:

  • office paper;
  • glass containers;
  • steel containers;
  • aluminum containers;
  • plastic containers made of #1 or #2 recyclable plastic (a variance was granted until Jan. 1, 1996, for containers made of #3 through #7 recyclable plastic);
  • corrugated paper or other container board;
  • newspapers or other material printed on newsprint;
  • magazines or other material printed on similar paper;
  • containers for carbonated or malt beverages made from a combination of steel and aluminum;
  • waste tires (however, these may be incinerated with energy recovery); and
  • foam polystyrene packaging (as of Jan. 1, 1996).

Packaging materials, such as corrugated shipping containers, roll wrapper stock or scrap wood, are classified as municipal solid waste, not as industrial process waste. Consequently, these materials may be burned only in a permitted municipal solid waste combustor licensed by the Waste & Materials Management Program.

With these limitations, businesses are trying to find ways to generate less waste and reuse or recycle as much as possible. Contact your local recycling coordinator or UW-Extension Community, Natural Resource and Economic Development agent [exit DNR] for information. Businesses should dispose of non-recyclable wastes at an approved landfill.

Last revised: Monday November 11 2013