Bonfires and smoke

Garden bonfires

Although there are no laws that prohibit you from having a bonfire, they can cause a nuisance, due to smoke and smells, and are not an environmentally friendly way of getting rid of waste.

There are laws about burning certain types of waste - you can only burn garden waste and untreated wood produced on site.

If you do have a bonfire, please be considerate to others and ensure that it takes place at a reasonable time in the day, tell your neighbours beforehand and never burn anything else, such as treated wood, tyres, or anything containing plastic, foam or paint.

Smoke from bonfires can contain potentially harmful gases and particles, which can cause damaging health effects. Smoke can prevent your neighbours from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging washing out, and reduces visibility to local areas and on roads.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, we have the power to take action against anyone burning treated waste or when smoke from bonfires is causing a nuisance to neighbouring properties.



Compost your kitchen and garden waste at home. Over time, it will break down and become a rich soil improver for your garden. Visit our home composting page for more information.

Garden Waste Subscription Service

You can also put garden waste in your green-lidded wheeled bin if you sign up to our Garden Waste Subscription Service.  

Recycling Centres

Garden waste can also be taken to the Recycling Centres on Eastman Way in Hemel Hempstead or Northbridge Road in Berkhamsted. For more information on these, including opening hours and accepted materials, visit Hertfordshire County Council's website.

How to prevent a smoke nuisance

If you're thinking of having a bonfire, please be considerate to those around you and follow these guidelines:

Bonfire dos

  • Do consider shredding instead of a bonfire
  • Do consider the frequency of the bonfires you are having
  • Do consider using an incinerator instead of an open bonfire
  • Do be considerate to your neighbours before you light a bonfire and let them know, either verbally or with a note through the door
  • Do choose the location carefully - away from neighbouring homes, fences and trees
  • Do only burn garden waste material and untreated wood in small amounts
  • Do leave the bonfire until weather conditions are suitable - for example, when the wind is blowing away from neighbouring properties.

Bonfire don'ts

  • Don’t burn damp garden waste or damp grass cuttings 
  • Don’t light a bonfire when neighbours are enjoying their garden or have hung their washing out
  • Don’t allow your bonfire to smoulder for long periods of time, especially overnight
  • Don’t burn materials such as plastics, rubber, foams and oily rags
  • Don’t leave a bonfire unattended. Never leave a bonfire once it is alight.

Report a nuisance bonfire

If someone is causing a nuisance by lighting a bonfire you should first try to talk to them. They may be unaware that their activities are causing a problem and disturbing others. If there is a persistent nuisance that you are unable to resolve informally, you can report this using our online form:

Report a nuisance bonfire

Alternatively, call us on 01442 228000 or email

To enable officers to deal with the problem as quickly as possible, please provide the following:

  • Your contact details
  • The location of the problem
  • Evidence that supports your complaint, such as photographs and short videos (the size limit on emails is 20MB).

Burning from business, trade or construction sites

The burning of commercial or trade waste is not permitted on any site, without permission from the Environmental Agency. Businesses have a legal obligation to dispose of waste in a proper manner and not in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health.

Any person, company or business failing to do so, may be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice and/or prosecution for the offence.

In addition, if dark smoke is produced from a trade or business premises, including building sites, then under the Clean Air Act 1993 the responsible party can receive a fine of up to £20,000, if found guilty.

Page Last Updated: Wednesday, 07 June 2023 at 01:26 PM

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