News & Updates

The Burning Question: Why Not Burn Trash?

Chloe Lindahl - April 20, 2022

Garbage In, Toxins Out

Whether you are in your backyard or in the backcountry, burning trash in your fire has negative impacts on human, animal and plant health alike. Garbage has changed over the years and today’s household trash contains a plethora of plastics and paper treated chemicals, coatings, and inks. Trash items like plastics, rubber, foam, textiles, synthetic materials, and batteries contain hazardous chemicals as well. When burnt, these chemicals are released into the air and then breathed in by those in close proximity. The chemicals can also be absorbed by your skin in some cases and even absorbed by the food you might be cooking over that fire. Below are three vital reasons we do not recommend burning trash in your backyard fire pit, at the nearby park’s barbeque grill, or in your campsite’s fire ring.

1) Human Impacts

As mentioned above, burning trash produces air pollution with toxic chemicals that are known to be carcinogenic, or cancer-causing. Chemicals like benzene, styrene, toluene, furan, and many others are released by burning trash and can be easily inhaled by those around the campfire. Additionally, the next visitors to the park barbecue grill or campsite are welcomed by unsightly garbage and food scraps they’re then forced to deal with.

2) Wildlife Impacts

Partially burnt trash and food scraps that are left in fire pits attract animals and eventually lead to negative interactions between humans and those animals. Many of these interactions do not end well for the animals as park employees may be forced to deal with the wildlife that has stumbled too close to human habitats despite it often being humans at fault in the first place. Additionally, the lead left behind in campfire ash from burning single-use plastics, packaging, and snack wrappers is not only toxic to the humans that build a fire there the next time but is also extremely toxic to the animals that scavenge from piles of ash. 

3) Plant and Soil Impacts

Ash that remains from burnt trash in barbeque grills and campfire pits contains concentrated amounts of toxic materials that can blow away or seep into the soil. This has the potential to impact plants in the area and can even affect our groundwater.


In order to prevent these negative impacts on people, wildlife, and plants please practice Leave No Trace by packing out all trash and food scraps. This includes fruit cores and peels, paper towels, cardboard, and any other materials or foods that you brought with you. Everything should be packed out and disposed of properly at the completion of your outing or trip. These small actions allow nature to stay beautiful for everyone who wants to experience it and for the wildlife that call it home. 

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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