Burning in the open
Burning in the open is a common practice to reduce the risk of bushfires, manage agricultural land and to dispose of agricultural and forestry wastes. People also use open fires to cook food, prepare beverages, for domestic heating and as part of recreational activities (eg campfires).
However, smoke from these activities can impact on human health and the environment, and can also cause environmental nuisance. Smoke can be both odorous and irritating (eg can cause itchy eyes, runny nose, sore throat and coughing). Smoke from burning in the open also contributes to fine particle pollution (particularly PM2.5) which can aggravate existing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and can have other health effects. There is also no clear threshold below which health effects do not occur.
Health impacts are higher leading into the cooler months as smoke is a significant contributor to poor localised air quality and although they may enjoy an outdoor fire, there are people in their neighbourhood such as the elderly, those with respiratory diseases or have young children who are more susceptible.
The rules minimise the health impacts of wood smoke, and allow people to still enjoy outdoor activities.
In South Australia, burning in the open (which includes burning in a domestic incinerator) is managed by local government using provisions in the Environment Protection (Air Quality) Policy 2016.
Management of burning in the open in South Australia
The scope of the previous Environment Protection (Burning) Policy 1994 was extended under the Air Quality Policy to ensure equivalent air quality standards for all built up areas in South Australia and to limit the impacts of smoke on human health and amenity.
The new provisions aim to minimise smoke impacts in populated areas by providing different requirements for the management of burning in the open inside and outside metropolitan Adelaide and townships.
The policy (clauses 5 and 6) will allow councils to better manage burning in their area by tailoring it to the needs of their community and circumstances and by providing flexibility in administration and management.
The following chart shows how burning in the open is regulated inside metropolitan Adelaide and townships, and outside metropolitan Adelaide and townships.
For more information head to the EPA website.