If you’re burning garbage, you’re making poison
Resources: Information and education
In Minnesota, backyard burning of garbage is still common. A 2005 survey in the state concluded that 45% of rural Minnesotans dispose of their household wastes in burn barrels, fire pits, or similar devices, burning anywhere from less than a bag of garbage per week to more than two bags per week. A great deal of education is needed to help Minnesota residents understand the risks of burn barrels and make them aware of the alternatives.
The MPCA distributes several resources relating to backyard burning of trash to help counties, cities, and concerned citizens.
Print materials: Fact sheets and handouts
We offer fact sheets and other resources to educate Minnesota residents about the risks of backyard burning. Download or view them online, or contact the agency's Learning Resource Center (651-296-6300 or 800-877-6300) to arrange to have items shipped to you at no charge.
Radio: Public service announcements
These PSAs were produced in 2007 for the statewide use in Minnesota to educate residents; voice talent royalties have been paid in full for use in Minnesota.
We offer two sets of radio spots: one voiced by Minnesota's own Ron Schara, the other based on the character Bernie the Burn Barrel. Each PSA has a version without the MPCA tag so it can be customized with local contact information.
Portable display: Bernie the Burn Barrel
This portable display is available from MPCA for use at events like county fairs and public meetings. Contact the MPCA's Learning Resource Center to schedule: Call 651-296-6300 or 800-877-6300 toll free.
Sample editorials for local newspapers and newsletters
Solid waste officers, county commissioners, and concerned citizens can "air their opinions" about the dangers of backyard garbage burning through local newspapers and newsletters. Here are some sample ideas to get started. Changing local behavior starts with local ideas and opinions, so letter-writers are encouraged to customize their message to fit their communities.
Powerpoint presentationBurn Barrel Reduction Campaign presentation
The MPCA has been using this presentation in front of county boards and other groups to educate on the risks of backyard garbage burning and outline what the agency is pushing statewide to eventually eliminate the practice.
Sample no-burn resolutions for county boardsSample county resolution
A few counties in Minnesota have formally banned garbage burning at the local level, passing a county board resolution stating garbage service is reasonably available to all residents and making onsite disposal illegal for county residents. Enforcing laws against burning is easier for regulatory officials such as police, forest, or conservation officers when all burning of municipal solid waste in a county is banned.
This generic format is based on actual resolutions used by counties to ultimately ban all burning and burial of garbage by all county residents. The example may be helpful for counties who are interested in banning all garbage burning in their county, but it is only intended to serve as a sample—modification is likely needed. For more assistance in developing a countywide no-burn resolution, contact Hank Fisher email@example.com at 651-296-6300 or 800-657-3864.
Research and education
- Garbage Burning in Rural Minnesota (2010) Interviews with residents about health, environmental, legal, enforcement, and safety concerns, regarding burning of garbage and household waste. Findings are based on the results compiled from 897 interviews completed with residents of more than 550 communities in eighty of Minnesota’s 87 counties. The report compares 2010 responses to those in the 2005 study. (2010)
- Open Burning in Rural Minnesota - Summary Report (2005) Based on interviews with Minnesota residents about health, environmental, legal, enforcement and safety concerns regarding open burning of garbage and household waste. The report offers a statewide overview, as well as breakout summaries on a regional basis and by type of respondent. Most notably, the survey found that 45% of respondents dispose of their household wastes in burn barrels, fire pits, or similar devices, burning anywhere from less than a bag of garbage per week up to over two bags per week. (2005)
- Clearing the Air: Tools for Reducing Residential Garbage Burning This 44-page toolkit for local officials and concerned citizens will help address a serious local health and environmental safety issue: the emission of dangerous pollutants in your community, including dioxins. These toxins are generated in backyards across the country through the all-too-common practice of garbage burning by residents. Compiled by the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD) in partnership with the state of Minnesota, and funded through a grant from the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office.
- Emissions of Polychlorinated Dibenzo-p-dioxins and Polychlorinated Dibenzofurans from the Open Burning of Household Waste in Barrels
- Variables Affecting Emissions of PCDD/Fs from Uncontrolled Combustion of Household Waste in Barrels
- An Inventory of Sources and Environmental Releases of Dioxin-Like Compounds in the U.S. for the Years 1987, 1995, and 2000
Educational video: Waste Not, Burn Not! (1996)
A 10-minute video addressing some common misunderstandings about the use of burn barrels for managing household garbage. The video identifies alternatives for handling household wastes that are less dangerous and more effective. Copies distributed through the MPCA's Learning Resource Center: Call 651-296-6300 or 800-877-6300 toll free.
Burn Barrel Buy Back (4B's) Program Strategy Guide
This summary describes the planning, oversight, and administration of Chisago County's Burn Barrel Buy-Back (4B's) Program. This education and incentive effort helped the county reduce back yard garbage burning by 40% in four years.
- Backyard Burning (U.S. EPA) The U.S. EPA has created a site for consumers and policy makers to learn more about the hazards of backyard burning of trash. They have online information, downloadable publications and images, and links to related sites.
- Bernie the Burn Barrel campaign Full materials from Bernie the Burn Barrel educational campaign are online, including fact sheets, handout cards, advertising materials, and posters. The campaign has also been compiled into a "Clearing the Air" outreach media kit on CD. (Western Lake Superior Sanitary District)
- Air Defenders The Wisconsin DNR and Wisconsin Environmental Health Association have developed this web site to educate citizens about the health and environmental problems associated with burn barrels and on-site disposal. The Air Defenders teach people about open burning, the problems it creates, and alternatives to burning waste. A curriculum for ages 10 and up features fact sheets, lessons, posters, and multimedia pieces.
- Don't Burn, Vermont Trash burning is illegal in Vermont, yet many still do it. "Don't Burn Vermont" is a campaign to educate Vermonters about the harmful effects of trash burning, the penalties for violating the law, and low-cost and convenient alternatives to burning trash. (Vermont Agency of Natural Resources)