Don't burn your garbage toolkit

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.

Burn barrel cardThe 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.

PDF icon If you're burning garbage, you're making poison
PDF icon Handout card: If you're burning garbage, you're making poison
PDF icon Magnet artwork: If you're burning garbage, you're making poison

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.

PDF icon Burn barrel radio scripts

Package icon Radio Ads: Burn barrel Public Service Announcements (153Mb)

These PSAs were produced for statewide use in Minnesota to educate residents; voice talent royalties have been paid in full for use in Minnesota. The full set includes scripts, two different spots (4 file formats included), and cue sheet for broadcasters.

  • 128Kbps MP3 (Compressed, middle quality)
  • 320Kbps MP3 (Compressed, high quality)
  • AIF 16bit 44.1 Khz (Broadcast quality, Mac)
  • WAV 16bit 44.1 Khz (Broadcast quality, Windows)

Bernie displayPortable 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

Microsoft Office document icon Sample editorial
Microsoft Office document icon Sample text for editorials

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 presentation

Office presentation icon Burn 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 boards

Microsoft Office document icon Sample 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 Mark Rust: or 651-296-6300 or 800-657-3864.

Research and education

PDF icon 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)

PDF icon 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)

PDF icon 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. (2005)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has conducted detailed research into pollution from backyard burning of trash, including dioxins.

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.


HTML icon Backyard Burning (U.S. EPA)

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.

HTML icon 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)

HTML icon 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)