Can I Report My Neighbour For Burning Rubbish?

This article aims to help in answering the question of whether or not one can report their neighbour for burning rubbish. Since this is a matter that can affect the environment in general and also poses a health hazard for people living in the vicinity, we will discuss the details of how it should be handled, circumstances when it can be reported and to whom as well as review some basic laws regarding the burning of rubbish.

Can I Report My Neighbour For Burning Rubbish?

Yes, you can report your neighbour for burning rubbish. Smoke from burning rubbish is a source of air pollution, it can cause health hazards and can also be a cause of inconvenience or nuisance for neighbours. Therefore, according to the Environmental Protection Act 1990, disposing of domestic waste in a manner that leads to any of the above consequences is an offence and can be reported to the local council.

In addition to this, if someone is burning rubbish on their property but the smoke and fumes affect the traffic on the adjacent road, the person committing the act will be fined according to the Highways Act 1980.

This means that if your neighbour is burning rubbish and you are not being affected by the smoke and fumes but you do witness it affecting the traffic on a nearby road, you can still report them to the authorities.

However, if your neighbour is burning dry materials such as wood, there are no significant fumes or smoke and no potential harm to the environment, you will not have a reason to report them for burning rubbish. Even if you do choose to proceed with a complaint, there is a possibility that due to a lack of reasonable grounds, no action will be taken by the authorities.

How Will The Council Deal With The Report Of Smoke From Burning Rubbish?

When you make a complaint to your local council office regarding smoke from burning rubbish, they will first assess the matter of whether or not the smoke is the cause of “statutory nuisance” according to the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

This means that they will evaluate if the smoke rising from your neighbour burning rubbish is:

  • the cause or possible cause of a health injury to anyone (this includes you, the complainant, any other neighbour, traffic on the road or even your neighbour and their family who is burning the rubbish)
  • the cause of unreasonable and substantial interference with the enjoyment of one’s premises 

If the smoke qualifies as a statutory nuisance, the council will issue an abatement notice asking your neighbour to stop burning rubbish immediately. If they do not follow the council’s instructions, your neighbour can be fined £5,000 by the authorities.

Are There Any Laws In The UK Regarding Garden Fires?

Yes, there are laws against garden fires or burning rubbish in the UK. These include the following:

  • Environmental Protection Act 1990
  • Highways Act 1980
  • Criminal Damage Act 1971

According to the Environmental Protection Act 1990 it is an offence to burn rubbish that can cause harm to the environment or create health hazards due to excessive smoke and fumes. In such cases, the smoke from burning rubbish will be classed as a statutory nuisance and the person committing the act will be served with an abatement notice by the council. Failure to abide by an abatement notice is a criminal offence. This means that the offended will have to appear before a Magistrate’s court and face a fine of £5,000.

Meanwhile, Section 161A of the Highways Act 1980 prohibits individuals from burning rubbish on their property in a manner that the smoke and fumes affect the traffic on an adjacent or nearby road. If there is an accident or injury on the road due to the burning of rubbish, there is a heavy fine imposed on the guilty party.

If the burning of rubbish causes damage to property due to a fire being spread, the Criminal Damage Act 1971 applies in such cases. This means that the act is being considered arson intent as another life is endangered due to its occurrence. 

Is There Any Other Way That I Can Stop My Neighbour From Burning Rubbish?

Yes, there are other ways to stop your neighbour from burning rubbish but they are only recommended in cases where the smoke and fumes do not pose a threat to anyone and you are sure of handling the matter on your own.

Below are some guidelines that you can follow in this regard:

  • You can start by talking politely with your neighbour and raising your concerns not as a matter of complaint but in favour of the general well-being of everyone involved as well as the protection of the environment.
  • You can also choose to write a letter to your neighbour and explain the adverse effects of the frequent burning of rubbish.
  • If other neighbours are also being affected by the burning rubbish, you can approach a tenant’s association to discuss the matter with your neighbour who is burning the rubbish.
  • If you are unable to get a positive response from your neighbour, you can contact their landlord to raise your concerns. This can be a private landlord, council authority or social housing landlord.
  • If you are unable to resolve the matter on your own, you can use a mediation service to share your concerns on your behalf. These are third-party individuals who are trained in conflict management and resolution.

If none of these actions yields positive results or the matter is too serious to be ignored, you can contact your local council office, or the police (if the matter is urgent and high risk) or take legal action through the court (this is usually the last resort).


The discussion in this article brings us to the conclusion that you can report your neighbour for burning rubbish especially if it is a statutory nuisance and poses a threat to people or the environment. There are different laws regarding the burning of rubbish and its impact which you can quickly review through this article before deciding on your next step. 


Burning rubbish | nidirect.

Garden bonfires: the rules – GOV.UK

Nuisance smoke: how councils deal with complaints – GOV.UK

Rules and Regulations of Burning Rubbish – One Education

Burning Rubbish | Tips & Rules for Safe Bonfires

Resolving neighbour disputes: Overview – GOV.UK