Sports and Outdoors

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Burning yard debris is harmful to health and the environment

From the Indiana Department of Environmental Management:

Leaves, branches, twigs and other yard debris have started to accumulate in Hoosier yards, and there are ways to get rid of these unwanted wastes without burning them. Mulching, composting and chipping dispose of yard waste without creating harmful smoke.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) reminds Hoosiers that all smoke is harmful to human health and the environment. Smoke from wood contains carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, fine particles and ozone-forming chemicals. Burning leaves, grass clippings, weeds, wet wood and other high-moisture wood products will increase the volume of these chemicals in the smoke and the harm to human health.

IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly recommends safer, healthier ways to get rid of yard waste this fall. “There are so many good, environmentally-friendly alternatives to burning, it just makes sense for Hoosiers to put away their matches,” said Commissioner Easterly. “Alternative debris disposal creates mulch and wood chips that can be used on your lawn and in your garden.”

Alternatives to open burning include:

  • Mulching – Mulch leaves and twigs by chopping them up with a lawnmower. This returns nutrients to the grass.
  • Composting – Pile grass clippings, leaves, branches and weeds in a container or on the ground. They will break down naturally into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Cities, townships and counties have leaf collection programs if you don't have the yard space for composting.
  • Chipping – Borrow or rent a chipper to chip up large branches and small trees. The wood chips can be spread around trees and flower beds to retain soil moisture and control weeds.

More information about yard debris disposal can be found on IDEM's website at

About Open Burning

It is always illegal to open burn trash. Clean wood products, such as leaves and twigs, may be burned under conditions allowed by state rules and local ordinances. This includes burning clean wood products in an elevated, well-ventilated container with a mesh cover and with adequate fire extinguishing equipment nearby. Burning of any kind is prohibited in Lake, Porter, Clark and Floyd counties. Visit to see Indiana’s open burning requirements and to view IDEM's open burning brochure.

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