Burning Trash / Yard Debris

Michigan was the last Great Lakes state to allow any backyard burning of garbage. But as of October 19, 2012, that is over. The backyard burn ban was put in place due to growing understanding of the dangers of burning trash. Garbage now contains many plastic and chemically treated materials, making the hazards of backyard burning much more serious today than for previous generations.

Toxic Pollution
Cancer-causing and otherwise toxic compounds like lead, mercury, dioxins, hydrocarbons, and hexachlorobenzene are released in the smoke and what goes up must come down-often over the individual's yard and neighborhood. When these chemicals come down over farms and lakes they are consumed by livestock and fish and enter the food chain. Health effects of exposure include respiratory illnesses; damage to the nervous system, kidneys or liver; and reproductive or developmental disorders. Spread the word to your friends and neighbors; recycle it don't burn it!

Open Burning
Open Burning is the burning of solid waste without the benefit of a device to adequately control combustion, such as those found in solid waste incinerators. The State of Michigan no longer allows residents to burn their household wastes. Check with your local laws (PDF) for specific bans or restricted the activity. If local laws are enacted, they take precedence over state laws.

Open burning is regulated by the State of Michigan through the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA, Public Act 451) under the following parts:
  • Part 55, Air Pollution Control
  • Part 115, Solid Waste Management
  • Part 515, Forest Fire Prevention
The burning of any type of commercial or industrial waste or structures is prohibited by State law. The only exceptions are the burning of bee keeping equipment, and the burning of structures for the purpose of training fire fighters.

The following two types of residential waste may be burned in Michigan if local laws do not specifically prohibit the activity
  • Trees, logs, brush and stumps
  • Grass clippings and leaves
State Guidelines
Assuming local laws are not enacted, residents can burn according to the state guidelines described below. However, the Clinton County Department of Waste Management strongly discourages these practices due to the negative impacts to human health and the environment. When household wastes are openly burned, a variety of toxins are released. These can include styrene, formaldehyde, benzene, lead, mercury, dioxin, PCB, and a number of other compounds that are harmful and known to cause cancer or other health and respiratory ailments. And as with any combustion, the smoke emitted can be irritating to those within close proximity and there is always the danger of an uncontrolled fire.

The Department of Waste Management also strongly discourages the use of fire to dispose of trees, stumps, leaves and other yard waste materials. Burning of organic waste can produce hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulates that can lodge in the lungs. As with household waste, besides releasing irritating smoke, the burning of these wastes pose a fire hazard. Contact the Department at 989-224-5187, or Email Waste Management to learn about safe alternatives to burning household and yard wastes. If you suspect your neighbor is burning material illegally, or you have questions about what can be legally burned in your community, contact your local fire chief (PDF).

State Burning Guidelines only apply in areas where local laws are not enacted to the contrary. View the Community Burn Ordinances (PDF) for information on local laws.

Household Wastes
  • Combined Burning - Use of Burn Barrel: As of October 19, 2012, state law prohibits the burning of household trash. The following materials cannot be burned under any circumstances: asbestos, hazardous chemical products, asbestos, pesticide containers, and construction or demolition waste.
  • Burning of Treated Lumber: State law prohibits the burning of treated lumber, certain building materials and the use of fire to destroy a structure. The burning of a structure for the training of fire fighters is an exclusion to this rule. Also excluded is the burning of beekeeping equipment as a method of disease control.
Trees, Logs, Brush & Stumps
  • Open Burning: The open burning of trees, logs, brush and stumps is allowed in Michigan providing that it is in accordance with the law, that is, it is not done within 1400 feet of a city or village, nor within a Priority 1 or 2 area (there are none in Clinton County) and it doesn't cause a nuisance. A permit must be obtained if the ground is not snow-covered or if a burn barrel is not used. Several communities in Clinton County have developed ordinances to manage open burning of trees, logs, brush and stumps.
  • Campfires Campfires and outdoor fireplaces fall under the guidelines of forest fire prevention and are permitted by the state. Campfires may be banned if the state deems that conditions are hazardous or, under other conditions, a permit may be required.
Grass Clippings & Leaves
  • Open Burning: Unless a community has adopted an ordinance, the open burning of leaves and grass clippings is illegal within any Michigan community with a population of 7,500 or more. Several communities in Clinton County with populations under 7,500 have developed ordinances (PDF) to manage open burning of grass clippings and leaves.