Complete combustion converts waste into inert bottom ash with minimal creation of smoke, fly ash and hazardous
gases. Several factors influence this process including the heating value, wetness and chemical composition of the
waste itself, operating conditions in the burn chamber (i.e. temperature, holding time and turbulence) and
The method used is important in determining what can safely be burned. Certain wastes can only be incinerated
using equipment that has been specifically designed and equipped with sufficient air pollution controls and that
achieve specific air emission standards. For example, waste containing chlorinated compounds (i.e. chlorinated
solvents and plastics, PVC piping, wood treated with pentachlorophenol or PCB-amended paint, marine driftwood)
must be separated from other waste as their burning will result in the de novo creation and emission of various
dioxin and furan compounds. Waste containing mercury (i.e. batteries, thermostats and fluorescent light bulbs) and
other heavy metals (i.e. lead acid batteries, wood treated with lead paint) should not be burned as the mercury
and heavy metals will not be destroyed. Other waste that should not be burned unless using specially designed
incinerators include used lubricating oil, hydrocarbon contaminated soil, biomedical waste, sewage sludge or any
other waste specifically prohibited by the Department of Environment.
Table 2 provides a listing of common wastes that can be burned and those that require special consideration and
treatment. Note that open burning and incineration are identified as separate columns in the table and that
different restrictions apply depending upon which method is used. In general, more restrictions apply to the
various methods of open burning because of the incomplete combustion achieved. Fewer restrictions apply to
incineration because of the operator’s ability to control the combustion process.
Non-combustible materials such as metal and glass do not burn and will rob heat away from waste that can be
destroyed by burning. Combustible waste should always be separated from non-combustible waste before being loaded
into the burn chamber.