​Otter Tail County Solid Waste Asks Residents to Stop Backyard Burning of Garbage

​Otter Tail County Solid Waste Asks Residents to Stop Backyard Burning of Garbage Click to Enlarge

Otter Tail County, MN– Although burning garbage in a burn barrel or stove has been illegal for more than 4 decades, up to 25% of rural residents still burn their own garbage. The Otter Tail County Solid Waste Department asks residents to finally put the burn barrel away, as the practice is a misdemeanor offense, garbage service is widely available and affordable, and there are clearly established negative health and environmental impacts from burning your own garbage.

Our garbage has changed dramatically from what it once was. “There is a lot more plastic and chemicals in the garbage today” says Assistant Solid Waste Director Zach Fjestad. “All that plastic packaging is full of toxins.” Even a plain white piece of paper is now treated with chemicals and bleaching agents, and inks can include lead and other heavy metals.

We also know much more now about the hazards to human health and the environment. Health concerns range from watery eyes, coughing and respiratory illnesses like asthma and emphysema to even more serious nervous system, kidney, and liver damage, as well as developmental and reproductive disorders. Even if the person burning garbage doesn’t show immediate effects, cancer causing dioxins in smoke settle on soil, water and crops and enter the food chain. Once there, dioxins can spread far away from their original source and build up in the food we eat.

In addition, burning your garbage outdoors increases wildlife health risks, contaminates air, soil and water and is the leading cause of wildfires in Minnesota.

You may think that burning garbage is a way to save money, but it is clear that the costs to human health and the environment are simply too high to justify the dollars you might save. Garbage sent to the Perham Resource Recovery Facility (PRRF) is combusted in a high heat environment that destroys harmful compounds, and has state of the art pollution control equipment – a backyard burn barrel or stove has a relatively low heat of combustion, and actually emits more dioxin than a facility like the PRRF does.

“Garbage collection is available throughout Otter Tail County, so everyone can dispose of their garbage in a responsible manner” says Fjestad. “As far as utilities go, garbage service is still one of the least expensive ones. Homeowners can also self-haul to any of Otter Tail County’s six transfer stations.”

For more information about the environmental impacts of burning garbage, what can be burned, a list of local garbage haulers and proper disposal of household waste, visit ottertailcountymn.us/solid-waste. To report illegal burning, please contact the Solid Waste Department at 218-998-8950.

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