Neighbors Burning Trash? Here’s What to Do!

neighbors burning trash

Dealing with a neighbor’s poor trash disposal habits is already bad enough. But what’s worse is having a neighbor who burns his trash. Even with the availability of recycling centers, there are still people who are least concerned about the effects of burning garbage. If you have issues with neighbors burning trash, know that there are things you can do to address this problem.

Burning trash is considered illegal in most states. Offenders can be fined anywhere between $75 to $300. If you live in a state where burning trash is illegal, try talking with your neighbor about their actions. If that doesn’t work, you can report them to the local authorities.

If talking doesn’t help, there are other ways you can handle the situation, which we will discuss later in this blog post. We’ll also cover the effects of burning garbage, so you can share this information with people around you (especially those trash burning neighbors of yours).

This post contains affiliate links from Amazon and other stores. This means Yard Blogger may earn a commission should you make a purchase using any of our links. Please refer to our full affiliate disclosure policy for full details.

Here’s a Quick Pro Tip!

Getting into a dispute with your neighbor is never fun, and these things can often drag on forever.

Catching your neighbor in the act of burning trash or anything else unlawful will be all the evidence you need to report them and win.

Having a decent security system like a Ring Video Doorbell or Outdoor Security Cameras (both on Amazon) is a smart thing to do in this situation. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words!

Is Burning Trash Illegal?

Burning garbage on your property, or also referred to as backyard burning, was once a common practice in the United States. After all, the lack of recycling facilities back then made burning trash the most convenient option, especially in rural areas.

But despite the availability of trash collection services and recycling centers, many people still practice backyard burning mostly because it’s a lot faster and more affordable than paying for the services.

While burning trash may be illegal in most states, it may still be an acceptable practice not punishable by law in other areas. And if you are one of the unfortunate people who live in such areas and experience inhaling toxic smoke from your neighbor once a week, it’s going to be a real problem. So what can you do?

How to Complain About Neighbors Burning Trash

When there are issues with your neighbor, the first thing to do is to always resolve matters in a civilized way. Be an adult in the situation and tell your neighbors directly how burning trash is not good for the environment and the health.

It helps to be firm but non-threatening when you approach your neighbor. You can also take it as an opportunity to educate your neighbor about other alternatives to burning trash. You can suggest ways to dispose of trash such as:

  • Self-hauling the trash to a recycling center or a landfill
  • A better alternative is to suggest reducing their volume of trash by leading a zero-waste lifestyle
  • If most of the time your neighbor is burning yard waste, suggest that they do composting instead
  • Recommend they pay for trash hauling services

Despite the many options they can take, keep in mind that most of the time talking won’t yield results. Your complaints could fall on deaf ears and your neighbor might continue burning their trash anyway. Your neighbor might even see you as somebody who likes to be in other people’s business.

This is often the case in situations for people wanting to stop their neighbors from setting off fireworks. Some neighbors will be kind and considerate, while others won’t listen and continue to do it.

In that case, you can call the non-emergency local police department number to report illegal burning. This could be the option left for you especially if the burning has become a nuisance.

But before you do, you need to research the trash burning rules in your area. In most cases, the trash burning not only refers to outdoor situations but it also applies to burning trash indoors, like a neighbor burning trash in a fireplace, for example. 

You may also call the local health department or the fire department if your neighbor’s trash burning is happening more frequently, which is already considered a nuisance or a serious risk to your health and your property.

Another option is to gather up people in your community, who might be just as annoyed as you are with the trash burning problem of your neighbor. You can then take it up to your local council so they can come up with a solution that benefits everyone.

Is There a Fine for Burning Trash?

Since it is illegal to burn trash, then that also means there is a fine for anyone breaking this law. The fines will vary according to state. In Michigan for example, fines for trash burning (a state civil infraction) can be anywhere between $75 to $300 depending on how many times you’ve been cited for the same action.

What Does Burning Trash Smell Like?

Burning trash produces unpleasant smells and fumes that are not only irritating to your nose and eyes, but may also produce other negative health effects. The smell of trash is already bad enough, and it’s worse when they get burned. It’s even much worse knowing that the fumes produced are toxic enough to affect your health and cause respiratory illnesses.

We will discuss more about the effect of trash burning to your health and the environment in the sections below.

How Does the Burning of Garbage Affect the Environment?

By now, you may have always heard about how burning trash can affect our environment, without realizing how great of an impact that is. It doesn’t matter what you’re burning – it could be paper, wood (treated or painted), or even grass clippings – as long as it’s waste, then they should be disposed of properly and not burned outside in a burn barrel or even in a fireplace.

For one, burning garbage such as plastic and treated or painted wood releases toxic fumes into the air. You may think that they are just fumes that can be dispersed in the wind, but the chemicals that are in it can be deposited into the soil, which can be absorbed by your plants. And if you are tending a garden, that is bad news.

Apart from that, residue from trash burning can also end up on soil and seep into groundwater, thereby polluting the water as well. You can only imagine how these harmful chemicals get mixed up in the food chain.

Why Is Burning Trash Bad for the Environment

People have been burning trash for years, but the only difference between then and now is the quality of trash we have now. Today’s trash underwent more chemical treatments and has more dyes and plastic, which when burned releases even more toxins. These toxins find their way into the ground and the waters, ultimately harming humans and animals.

It’s also worth mentioning how burning trash can be a risk for forest fires, especially for residents who live near wooded regions. Burning in barrels can cause this disaster, especially when they’re left unattended for too long.

Harmful Effects of Burning Garbage

Now, let’s talk about the harmful effects of burning garbage to health. First off, it’s already a nuisance to inhale smoke from burning trash. The effect is more severe in people who are sensitive to smoke or those who have an existing respiratory condition.

Children, the elderly, and those with preexisting health conditions are more susceptible to the ill effects of trash burning. Prolonged exposure to smoke from burning trash may cause nausea, headaches and rashes. In addition, it can increase the risk of heart disease and worsen respiratory illnesses.

For some people, the health effects may not be observed immediately but overtime, the prolonged exposure to smoke can take a toll on the body. It can cause damage to the lungs, kidneys, liver, and the nervous system.

And then, there’s dioxin – which is one of the most hazardous chemical compounds released from burning trash. This cancer-causing agent is almost always a result of trash burning and is already dangerous even when you are exposed to little amounts. 

Much of the amounts of dioxins released get deposited in plants. These plants are food to farm animals, which will be consumed for their meat. That being said, dioxins is not only introduced to our system by inhaling but also by eating meat from animals exposed to dioxin.

Conclusion – Neighbors Burning Trash? Here’s What To Do

Burning trash in general is unacceptable. If you live in areas where there are no strict measures against trash burning, then it’s time to take action. Know that you have the right to complain since trash burning can affect the environment and your health.

Here are other options to deal with the situation:

  • Talk to your neighbor, let them know it’s a nuisance, and educate them on the effects of burning trash
  • If that doesn’t work, complain to the local health and fire department
  • Move or transfer to a different location
  • Write to lawmakers

There is also another option that may not be favorable to you – which is to offer to take out your neighbor’s trash. This could easily work, especially if you see that most of the waste from your neighbor is just yard waste like grass clippings and dead branches. 

Perhaps, most of the trash burned are pieces of paper from the mail. You can volunteer to collect the paper scraps for them.

Sure, it’s easy to think that it’s a total waste of time to do something for someone, but if you don’t mind and you care greatly for your personal health, everyone’s health, and the environment, you won’t likely mind the gesture.