Outdoor Residential Waste Burning

This page last reviewed November 7, 2019

Burning household waste affects your health and your community's health...

Do you know the dangers from burning household waste near your home?  Today's trash contains plastics, metals, and synthetic materials that create dangerous chemicals when burned.  These chemicals include dioxins, benzene, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and other compounds that are known to cause respiratory ailments, stress human immune systems, and are potentially carcinogenic.

To protect community health, the Air Resources Board (ARB) approved an Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) to reduce air emissions of dioxins and other toxic substances from outdoor residential waste burning statewide.

Per this ATCM, beginning January 1, 2004, no household trash or garbage may be burned outdoors at residences.  Dry, natural vegetation, grown on the property, may still be burned outdoors in open piles, unless prohibited by local controls.  Burn barrels are not allowed for burning waste, including vegetation, at residences.
Picture of burn barrels, burned household waste, and smoke in neighborhood.

There are temporary exemption areas, with extremely low population density, where dry, non-glossy paper and cardboard might be burned, and where burn barrels might be permitted at residences.  These temporary exemption areas are determined by local air districts and are listed by census zip code tabulation area (ZCTA) for each county.  California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) has compiled information about alternative waste disposal options in your community.  Contact your local air district to obtain more information about residential burning in your area, including times when burning is restricted due to poor air quality.  If you do not know the associated local air district, please go to our district look-up database.