Council crack down to extinguish illegal fires


The number of illegal fires across the district has fallen 58% in a year according to East Cambridgeshire District Council.

The council has been cracking down on the burning of commercial waste as part of its commitment towards a cleaner, greener East Cambridgeshire.

Burning waste, particularly oil-based wastes, plastics and treated wood, results in a black carbon being emitted into the atmosphere. Black carbon is 5000 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) regarding its impact on global warming and the toxins given off from the burning are carcinogenic.

The burning of wastes is illegal under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Using powers under this Act and the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014, the council’s Environmental Health officers have issued 14 statutory warnings to offenders since 2022. As a result, they’ve seen the number of illegal fires drop from 36 instances in 2022 to 15 in 2023.

Simon Cross, Environmental Services Officer at the council, said: “Now more than ever before how we treat our environment is incredibly important for our future and how we dispose of waste is of paramount importance to our lives and to those in our community. Most of the waste we produce can be recycled or re-used but despite this we are still responding to many reports of burning throughout the year.” 

Burning waste in the open air releases harmful gases into the atmosphere and the residues from burnt waste can pollute surface and groundwater. Those responsible can face unlimited fines.

The Environmental Health team has also been targeting people who leave piles of rubbish on private land.

In 2023 it ordered 6 piles to be removed from private land and issued 8 fixed penalty notices. This is in addition to its crack down on fly-tipping which witnessed a 40 per cent drop between 2021 and 2023.

Cllr Julia Huffer, Environmental Champion at East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “We are pleased with the progress we are making as all this amounts to less greenhouse gases being emitted.

“Getting rid of waste through proper channels means that your waste will be dealt with in a way that carbon release is minimised.”

Visit the council’s website for more information on how to dispose of commercial waste responsibly.

Anyone who sees a fire which is out of control or a risk to people or animals should contact 999. Anyone who spots what they believe to be an illegal fire, or a dark plume of smoke, is also asked to contact the Council on 01353 665555 as soon as possible so officers can investigate.