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Energy and Environment Cabinet

Air Quality

Division for Air Quality
Open Burning

In Kentucky, it is never legal to burn household trash other than uncoated paper products. Aerosol cans, plastic, tires, food waste, coated wire, motor oil, painted or treated lumber, and many other materials create toxic fumes and ash that are hazardous to human health and the environment. Children, the elderly and those with existing health problems are particularly vulnerable to smoke from open burning. To learn before you burn, or to report an illegal open burn, call the Division for Air Quality at 1-888-BURN-LAW, or e-mail

The "Open Burning Learn Before You Burn" brochure provides additional information on the rules and regulations for open burning.  (See Quick Links)

Open Burning Could Hurt You or Others

Air pollution from open burning can cause serious health problems and damage the environment. That's why there are state rules to control air pollution caused by open burning.

When you light that trash pile, 7 percent to 9 percent of what you burn ends up as air pollution, and some pollutants are highly toxic. Pollutants include particulate matter, dioxin, heavy metals and arsenic among many others. What we burn today is different than what was burned in the past. Many items contain low levels of chlorine, that when burned release a pollutant called dioxin, a toxic chemical.

The smoke from your fire may not bother you but it could be a real problem and a serious health threat for your neighbors, especially if they have any respiratory diseases.

It's the law

Violating state air quality regulations could result in a fine of up to $25,000 per day.

Kentucky Division for Air Quality rules allow certain types of open burning: campfires, barbecues, small fires for warmth, burning plant matter from clearing your own property and wood bonfires on festive occasions.

It is illegal to burn: tires and other rubber products; wire; treated, painted or finished wood; plastics; garbage; heavy oils; asphalt materials; building materials, especially those containing asbestos; paints; and agricultural and household chemicals.

In addition to Division for Air Quality rules, other state and local regulations may apply. The Kentucky Division of Forestry and the State Fire Marshal's Office have regulations aimed at ensuring a blaze does not spread. Many city and county governments have ordinances regarding outdoor fires. Before starting a fire, check with your county or city government about restrictions that apply to your community. Another source of information is the Kentucky Division for Air Quality regional office or the solid waste coordinator in your area.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Open burning isn't necessary. Brush can be composted, piled up for wildlife or left to decompose. Newspapers can be recycled. Old attic junk can be given away for someone else to reuse. By making a few sensible choices, you can reduce the amount of throw-away material you create. The possibilities are endless. Look at what you've decided to burn. Isn't there something else you can do with it?


  • Look for items with less packaging.
  • Buy items in packaging that can be reused or recycled.


  • Donate clothes, shoes, books, appliances, electronics, furniture and toys to charity.
  • Use a coffee mug instead of a disposable cup.
  • Bring your own cloth bags to the store or reuse plastic bags.


  • Many Kentucky counties have a community recycling center.  Bring one or more of the following: newspaper, plastics (No. 1 and No. 2), cardboard, aluminum, steel and glass.


  • Leaves and grass clippings can be turned into food for your garden or houseplants.
  • Instead of burning old pallets, tie four pallets together to build a compost bin.


  • Items that cannot be reused or recycled should be taken to a landfill.