Some might think it’s better to burn garbage rather than bury it in a landfill, but that’s not the case.

Never burn garbage in your wood stove, your fireplace or a barrel in your yard. These devices are not incinerators.

Food packaging is one of the biggest sources of household waste. A good way to reduce your waste production is to avoid buying overpackaged products. Most papers and plastics can be recycled. Recycling is more environmentally friendly than burning because it does not pollute the air and is the raw material for many new products.

Unlike natural wood, garbage contains a wide range of materials and products that cause damage to the inside walls of your appliance and chimney. Most manufacturers specify that the warranty on your woodburning appliance will no longer be valid if damage is caused by burning garbage or other material which is prohibited. Check your owner’s manual but this will likely include treated or painted wood, driftwood, coal, garbage or plastic.

Burning garbage does not destroy the chemicals it contains, quite the opposite. Burning changes the chemicals, causing unpredictable and harmful chemical reactions. Dioxins are just one of the many pollutants produced by burning garbage. These highly toxic carcinogens do not decompose; they are bio-accumulative. Airborne dioxins are deposited on the ground, in water and on vegetation, and can be ingested by animals and fish. Burning garbage at home or in the cottage is the fifth largest source of dioxin in Canada.

Even paper burning can be risky due to chemical contamination. Always remember that diapers, cardboard, cardboard boxes and magazines usually contain plastics, additives and dyes.

In short, only burn firewood and recycle plastic and paper.