The holidays bring joy and happiness as families and friends gather together to celebrate the season. As fun and enjoyable as the get-togethers can be, however, there is a downside – trash!
When groups gather for food and drink, garbage can pile up. Parties produce sacks full of dirty paper plates, discarded decorations, gift-wrapping, and more. All too frequently, that waste overflows the household’s normal allotment of garbage cans and homeowners choose to burn the excess trash, even though it is illegal throughout Washington to do so.
Smoke from the burning of household waste contains dangerous chemicals that can cause health problems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), trash burning is one of the nation’s largest known sources of dioxins – highly toxic compounds linked to several health problems, including cancer and reproductive disorders.
Additionally, this Christmas weekend, weather conditions could lead to elevated pollution levels. Cold, calm nights mean any smoke put into the air will linger in the air around our neighborhoods. For this reason, residents should refrain from all unnecessary outdoor burning of yard waste and storm debris until conditions are more suitable for burning. They should also make sure to only burn well-seasoned, clean, dry firewood in their woodstoves and fireplaces to minimize smoke from those indoor heating devices.
Health problems that have been linked to exposure to air pollution that result from yard waste and trash burning include respiratory illness (including aggravation of pre-existing cases of asthma and emphysema), kidney and liver damage, nervous system disruptions and reproductive and developmental disorders. Because of their small size and growing bodies, children are especially at risk. Pound for pound, they are exposed to greater pollutant concentrations than adults.
Rather than burning household waste, ORCAA reminds residents to recycle as much of the material in the waste as possible, and then dispose of the remainder through their regular trash service.
Excess holiday waste can be taken directly to waste disposal stations, or it may be bagged and disposed of the following week when the household’s waste stream is back at a normal level.
Helping to keep our air clean and healthful is a great reason to avoid trash burning, but it’s also worth remembering that trash burning IS illegal, and could result in fines. Washington State law (WAC 173-425-050) prohibits the burning of all forms of trash, including (but not limited to): paper or newspaper (except what is necessary to start a fire), cardboard, household garbage, treated, painted or stained wood, plywood, construction debris, paints, tires and other rubber products, plastics, asphalt and building materials, chemicals, petroleum products and metal.
Additionally, burn barrels of any kind are illegal throughout Washington. For more information on the rules for resident burning throughout ORCAA’s jurisdiction, visit www.orcaa.org.