Burning garbage in rural Minnesota

I am going to stray a little bit from my normal article subjects dealing with feedlot regulations to focus on another issue that is burning wildly within our rural areas. The issue I am talking about is garbage burning and the question is, can yo...

I am going to stray a little bit from my normal article subjects dealing with feedlot regulations to focus on another issue that is burning wildly within our rural areas. The issue I am talking about is garbage burning and the question is, can you burn it or not?

The issue has long been battled and recently the West Central Tribune did an article on it, but due to increased concern from different agencies, it is worth noting again. Kandiyohi County Environmental Services, along with the Sheriff's Department, and the state Department of Natural Resources met to discuss the issue and we are going to do our best to inform the public about garbage burning.

Back to the question, I have a burning permit, can I burn my garbage? The answer is: Minnesota DNR burn permits allow the burning of CLEAN vegetative matter ONLY. This means unpainted, unstained and untreated wood and brush. Local ordinances may also allow leaf and grass clippings to be burned as well, but make sure you contact your local county, city or township to find out. Burning permits DO NOT allow the burning of painted wood, paper, plastic, garbage, or other listed material on the permit itself.

So what does this mean for your burn barrel or burning pit out back? Well, if you are only using it to burn clean wood and brush and have a permit, it is OK, but if you are burning garbage, plastic or other material that is not "clean," it could lead to a fine.

There is only one exception to the rule: Minnesota statutes allow a person who owns or operates land used for farming to burn, or burn and bury, solid waste generated from the person's household if the burying is done in a nuisance-free, pollution-free, and aesthetic manner on land used for farming.


The exemption DOES NOT allow burning of tires, plastics, household hazardous waste, appliances, household batteries, used motor oil or lead acid batteries from motor vehicles. Plastic twine is the only exception to this rule and is allowed to be buried, or burned and buried.

As a side note, state statute allows a resolution to be passed by a county board to make burning and burying illegal on any premises (including farmland) in the county if they determine garbage disposal is readily available to all properties within the county.

Now I am sure you are asking, what do I do with all that garbage then? Well, garbage service comes to mind, since there is garbage service available to every sector in this seven-county area.

Kandiyohi County offers household hazardous waste disposal at the household hazardous waste facility in Willmar or the landfill -- except pesticides and herbicides. The first 35 pounds is free and after that there is a $30 administrative fee up to 300 pounds. Please call 320-231-3587 for more information.

Kandiyohi County also provides the opportunity for FREE recycling at 16 recycling stations countywide in every municipality including Regal, Sunburg and Hawick for recyclables -- except herbicide and pesticide plastic containers. For more information on recycling, please call the recycling center at 320-231-3587.

What's the scoop on burning permits? Where you live determines from whom you get a burning permit. First, a DNR Forestry office can issue burning permits for anyone. On a local level, Kandiyohi, Stearns and Meeker counties have township fire wardens who can issue burning permits; Chippewa County issues burning permits from the sheriff's office; and in Clara City, permits are issued by the city office. The License Bureau in Renville County issues burning permits, and the sheriff's department issues burning permits in Swift and Pope counties. The length of time in which a burning permit is good depends on the county, so make sure to ask.

Why the concern over simple burn barrels and pits? Burning garbage or treated materials releases toxins that contaminate our air, soil and water. Theses toxins can get into our food and can cause serious health problems like cancer. Burn barrels are more of a concern now because more people are burning materials that did not even exist when these burn barrels and pits were started.

If you have questions regarding burning, feel free to call your county office, the DNR, or Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance at 800-657-3843. They will be more than happy to answer your questions and give you direction when burning is desired.


n Chippewa County: 320-269-2121

n Kandiyohi County: 320-231-6229

n Meeker County: 320-693-5400

n Renville County: 320-523-1161

n Swift County: 320-843-3133

n Stearns County: 800-450-0852

n Pope County: 320-634-5411

Jim Ostlie is the Kandiyohi County feedlot officer. Questions on this column or any other issue can be directed to him at (320) 231-6547.

What To Read Next
Get Local