Recommended Alternatives

The smoke from any fire can harm human health and the environment. Trash fires, which are illegal, are particularly toxic. Although open burning leaves and clean wood waste may be exempt under state rules and allowed by local ordinances, it is never advised. IDEM recommends these alternatives:

Trash
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle:
    • Avoid disposable items. Buy products in bulk. Purchase durable products and products that can be recharged, repaired, or refilled.
    • Donate unwanted items to relatives, friends, and charities. Mend and repair rather than discard or replace.
    • Separate recyclable items such as paper, metal, plastics, and glass from your garbage. Recycle Indiana lists recycling locations and what’s recyclable. For assistance, contact your solid waste management district (see the Association of Indiana Solid Waste Management Districts website) or IDEM’s Office of Program Support.
  • Properly dispose of household hazardous waste and unwanted medicine.
  • Use a municipal or private trash service. Ask your city or county government about local options. MyLocal.IN.gov provides links to local government agency websites (select a county from the dropdown menu).
  • Take trash to a permitted facility. IDEM’s Permitted Solid Waste Facilities List includes permitted landfills and collection container sites that are open to the public.
Leaves and Yard Waste
  • Compost:
    • Take clean wood waste to an approved composting site. IDEM’s Registered Yard Waste Composting Facilities list provides locations by county. Many allow free drop-off.
    • Compost kitchen waste, grass clippings, leaves, small woody debris, and clean chipped materials at home to produce a rich soil amendment for yards and gardens.
  • Use a mulching mower to chop grass into tiny nitrogen-rich bits that fertilize the yard instead of large clippings that must be raked or bagged.
  • Borrow, rent, or buy a small chipper to turn clean brush and leaves into mulch for your flower beds.
  • Find out if your community offers leaf collection.
  • Learn other ways to Reduce Yard Waste on IDEM’s Recycle Indiana site.

If you think residential open burning is your only option for the management of leaves and clean yard waste:

  • Verify requirements and conditions in state rules and any local ordinances before beginning.
  • Follow these fire safety tips to not only protect the health of yourself and others, but also to ensure that the burning is being conducted safely in a way to prevent wildfires and minimize the impact on our shared environment.