Can You Legally Burn Leaves in Your Washington State Backyard?
Now that the snow is gone, there are leaves all over the Tri-Cities and Washington State. Can you burn leaves legally on your property or do you have to bag them up for the trash in Washington State?
I Grew Up in Rural Washington State
Most of my life, I grew up in rural Washington State where our nearest neighbor was a couple of miles away. The main way we got rid of the trash like leaves or any paper products was with a burning barrel on the back side of the house. It was my job as a young kid to haul out the trash, light it on fire, and make sure nothing else caught fire in the area of the barrel.
Are Burning Barrels Legal in Washington State?
Obviously, things have changed since I was a kid or my parents ignored the law because burning barrels are completely illegal in Washington State. On the Department of Ecology for Washington State website, it clearly says "Burning in a burn barrel is illegal in Washington." Turns out my parents were not so bad after all because burning barrels became illegal in Washington in April of 2000. Burning barrels are illegal because "a fire in a burn barrel creates toxic smoke that stays low to the ground" according to the Washington State Department of Ecology.
Other Burning Options in Washington State
Turns out that burning barrels are not the only form of burning that is illegal in Washington State. It is illegal to burn at all in outdoor areas for urban growth areas. If your burning for heat, this does not apply. If you are burning leaves, trash, or waste in a pile or a big pit in a designated urban growth area, it is illegal. The State of Washington Department of Ecology also lists these items as illegal to burn even outside of urban areas:
-Paper, cardboard, or junk mail
-Construction debris, lumber, or treated wood
-Plastics or petroleum products
-Anything that emits toxins or bad odors when burned
Alternatives to Burning in Washington State
There are a few different alternatives to get rid of your leaves or waste from your yard. Composting is popular or chipping wood waste for mulch is also a great idea. Check to see if your garbage disposal company has curbside pickup for those items or you can haul it to the local landfill. If you want to see if you live inside an urban growth area where all burning outside is illegal, you can use the interactive map from Washington State by clicking here.
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