With the progress that has been made in waste removal, there is no longer a need to burn trash for waste removal. Most if not all cities have ordinances (laws) governing the burning of trash. That same “convenience” or way of life is not so subtle in rural communities and third world countries. There was a time when my family moved to an unincorporated part of Tarrant county. This was back in 1984, we didn’t have any city services since we didn’t provide the city any type of revenue. We didn’t provide any revenue because the city did not annex our neighborhood. The way we would get rid of trash was to burn it in a barrel. That same practice is continuing today in other parts of the world. It has harmful effects on humans in terms of the emission of dioxins. Dioxins are a group of 30 highly toxic chlorinated organic chemicals. The largest quantified source of dioxin emissions is the uncontrolled burning of household trash (backyard burning). Dioxins are not the only pollutants that are emitted into the environment during backyard burning. The other contaminants are particle pollution, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, hexachlorobenzene and ash. With all these chemicals being released, one would think there is a high correlation with the air quality. There is a correlation, because the nitrogen oxides (NOx) are responsible for acid rain, and contribute to global warming. Burning garbage in a barrel or pile produces more carbon monoxide (CO), that decomposition in a landfill.
While that burning campfire brings us such a romantic and intrinsic feeling. As it should since the carbons that are being emitted into the air are inhaled into our lungs. According to Lemieux, Lutes & Santoianni (2004), open burning is much more harmful than enclosed burning. Open burning are released and generally remain at ground level, while the smoke stacks release the smoke hundreds of feet in the air. This helps in the dispersion of the smokes.
Lemieux, P.M., Lutes, C.C., & Santoianni, D.A. (2004). Progress in Energy and Combustion Science. Emissions of organic air toxics from open burning: a comprehensive review. 30(1), 1-32. doi: 10.1016/j.pecs.2003.08.001