Richmondshire District Council

Duty of care

All businesses have a duty of care under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and other related legislation to safely contain, and legally dispose of any waste produced from it.

Waste is anything that is no longer required. It includes - but is not limited to – old mail, cleaning products, food wrappers, cardboard, plastics and sweepings. Legally waste is referred to as ‘controlled waste’. However it is commonly called commercial, trade or business waste. It can be from a shop, office, farm, construction or demolition sites or any other trade or business including those run from home. It also includes waste brought back to the home to be disposed of.

If you burn your waste then you are likely to be committing an offence unless specifically exempt. No matter how small the amount of waste is, burning is not an acceptable way of disposing of commercial waste. The offence carries a fine (unlimited) and/or imprisonment.

To dispose of waste legally you must:  

  • keep your waste safe and secure so it doesn’t leak or blow away. 
  • ensure the waste goes to a legal waste disposal site licensed by the Environment Agency (EA).

If you give it to someone else, ask them to produce evidence that they are authorised by the EA to carry waste. If they cannot do this, do not give them your waste. It is an offence to give waste to anyone not licensed to carry and dispose of controlled waste.


The Environmental Protection Act 1990 places a duty on local authorities to investigate complaints of a statutory nuisance. This includes “smoke, fumes or gases emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance.” This relates to both domestic and commercial premises.

To be considered a statutory nuisance, a bonfire would have to be a recurring problem, interfering substantially with someone’s wellbeing, comfort or enjoyment of his or her property. If the Council is satisfied a nuisance exists, an abatement notice can be served. The effect of such a notice is to make any further occurrence a criminal offence punishable, on conviction in a Magistrates Court, by a fine.

The Act also allows the public to take private action in the magistrates’ court.

Other controls

Clean Air Act 1993

It is an offence to burn anything on industrial or trade premises that produces dark smoke. The offence carries a fine (unlimited). Further offences exist where it is found that the burning of cable has taken place for the purposes of recovering the metal.

Some exemptions exist for permitted installations under the Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations. These can be found on the Environment Agency website.

Agricultural waste

Waste exemptions for burning certain types of waste wood and plant matter in the open may apply. If this is the case, an exemption from environmental permitting must be registered with the Environment Agency.

Additional restrictions apply to burning stubble and crop residues. 

Planning permission/demolition orders

These may enforce controls over site clearance or development to offer additional protection to local residents.

Highway Act 1980

Anyone lighting a fire and allowing smoke to drift across a highway faces a fine under the Highways (Amendment) Act 1986. If this occurs contact the police.

Disposing of waste

The Council no longer collects commercial waste. You can find your nearest business waste site or contractors by searching the public register available on the Waste Directory website.

North Yorkshire County Council also provides facilities for the deposit of certain types of commercial waste. Charges apply. For more information visit the County Council's website

How to complain  

If you are being bothered by smoke or an odour, first consider approaching the business or neighbour to advise them of the problem.

If this fails, you can report the issue to our Environmental Health team by completing our neighbourhood nuisance online form:

Report a nuisance  

Depending on the nature of the complaint, an enforcement officer may decide to visit or contact the business via letter or telephone. Your details will be kept confidential but if the problem recurs, you may be asked to keep a diary of events to assist officers investigating the matter. In some circumstances, you may be advised to contact the Environment Agency's incident hotline on 0800 807060.

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