Leave it for the garbage man
December 26, 2003
El Dorado’s trash burning ban more stringent than Alpine’s
By Jeff Munson
Tribune city editor
To burn or not to burn trash will no longer be the question come Thursday.
That’s when a state law goes into effect which effectively prohibits the burning of household trash in piles or fire barrels.
But what constitutes trash has become a confusing matter, according to Marcella McTaggart, pollution control officer for El Dorado County. On a limited basis, people may burn waste from trees, vines, brush, leaves, lawn clippings and dry plants with the proper burn permits obtained by local fire agencies. Trash such as cardboard, newspaper, plastic, glass, food containers and food products are prohibited
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Pile burning of limbs and lawn clippings will be allowed, but burning them in barrels is prohibited, McTaggart said.
“Clippings should be separated from paper and cardboard, which cannot be burned anywhere in El Dorado County,” McTaggart said.
While burning paper and cardboard is prohibited in El Dorado County, the matter can be burned with a permit in Alpine County, said Ellen Hardebeck, air pollution control officer for the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District.
The reason is because Alpine County falls into the category of having a low population density which meets the statewide criteria, Hardebeck said.
Paper or cardboard may be burned in barrels along with dry vegetation in limited areas of Alpine county, with people having the ZIP codes 95666 and 95646. There are no exceptions, however, when it comes to burning plastics and household garbage.
The law was created to cut down on the amount of cancer-causing pollutants, including dioxin, that are released into the atmosphere when burned. Household waste such as plastic food containers contain dioxin and other chemicals which have been linked to cancer.
The smoke produced by burning in burn barrels breaks down the immune system and causes health problems such as asthma, according to the office of Environmental Health and Hazard Assessment.
In 2002, about 800,000 households throughout the state were allowed to burn some form of household waste in burn barrels. The burning was the largest source of dioxins traced in California, producing more than municipal and waste incinerators.
“Studies have shown that trash burning is the biggest source of environmental pollution that contains dioxins,” Hardebeck said. “The buildup produces more than industry, which underwent environmental regulations a few years ago.”
Alternatives to burning including curbside pickup, self-hauling to a transfer station or landfill and taking plastics, glass, newspapers and cardboard to recycling centers.
There are also several ways to reduce the volume of waste materials generated, including buying products with less packaging, reusing materials and recycling. In addition, household waste can be compacted and organic and paper waste can be composted.
Violation of the law could result into a fine of up to $500.
To learn more about the household trash burning ban, go to: