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By Michael Brown

Senior Staff Writer

12 January 2021

| | 4 min read


Households urged not to light bonfires during lockdown

Householders are being warned to think twice before having a bonfire and that the new lockdown is not an excuse for anti-social behaviour or environmental crimes.

Please don't light bonfires

During the first national lockdown council public safety officers and the fire service received hundreds of reports of people burning waste at home.

But with recycling centres open and bin collections continuing families are asked to show sense, be respectful of others, and ensure that we still have a clean, green, brilliant city for us all to enjoy.

Cllr John-Paul Stephenson, Cabinet member for environment and regulatory services, said: “As a council we very much want everyone to be a good neighbour and to that end discourage the burning of any waste.

“Think of how having a bonfire could affect everyone else in your community, and then think long and hard about how dangerous it could be for others who may be suffering from the effects of a virus that affects the chest and breathing.

“Even if there wasn’t a pandemic bonfires can be detrimental to the health of you and those around you, cause air pollution, be anti-social, and there are more appropriate ways to dispose of rubbish.

“Plus, in most cases is illegal - It is a criminal offence to burn household rubbish which will cause pollution or possible harm to health, any waste from commercial activity, any waste from building or demolition works, or any waste that will cause dark or black smoke.

“If you do need to get rid of rubbish then our recycling centres at Brunswick, Byker and Walbottle are open as normal, our bin collections are continuing as scheduled, garden waste collections will soon return, or we can offer advice and discounted equipment to help you compost at home.”

During the first national lockdown, from March to July 2020, Newcastle City Council received 114 complaints about bonfires, including many instances of the illegal burning of waste such as treated wood and plastic.

Tyne and Wear Fire also saw the number of fires it had to respond to as a result of flames spreading from bonfires to flammable materials like fences increase dramatically.

And the number of “false alarm” calls it received as a result of smoke being seen more than tripled compared to 2019, as 100 well intentioned neighbours or passers-by called in the emergency services, tying up potentially lifesaving resources.

Peter Heath, deputy chief fire officer at TWFRS, said: “Crews are increasingly responding to garden fires, often ‘bonfires’ that have spread to fences, or other materials or where the fire contains items causing smoke hazardous to human health.

“These fires are a significant source of air pollution and the smoke can include poisonous gases, such as carbon monoxide.

“Our advice is very straightforward and clear – don’t burn household waste, plastics, rubber or any other material, which could cause harmful smoke.”

How to dispose of waste properly

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic all of Newcastle City Council’s green general waste, blue recycling and brown garden waste collections have continued as normal.

The city’s three household waste and recycling centres at Brunswick, Byker and Walbottle are also open, to their winter timetable, with measures in place to manage access, and ensure safety and social distancing.

This includes an “odds and evens” system to determine which days you can visit, and a requirement to show identification and proof of address, with only Newcastle residents allowed in.

Please be very wary should you look to arrange for someone else to take their waste away, as if it is dumped, the courts can fine you.

If using a skip hire or recycling contractor please check that they are authorised by the Environment Agency at

Reporting bonfires and environmental crimes

If bonfire is lit and causing a problem then please call the fire service.

If it is unlit or extinguished please report it using our Envirocall service at, call environmental health on  0191 278 7878 or email, providing as much detail as possible, such as what is being burnt, if that is known, and who is doing the burning.

Find out more

For more information about disposing of your rubbish and recycling responsibly see