Berate and Barrel
Open-barrel trash burning becoming a hot issue for states
Not interested in paying the $1- or $2-per-bag fee for trash disposal? Just throw it all in a barrel in your backyard and burn it. That’s what thousands of upstate New Yorkers — and millions of rural Americans — do, and it’s making some environmental activists hot under the collar. But a bill to ban the practice has languished in the New York legislature for several years under fire (ahem) from state agricultural interests, which say that disposing of the waste any other way is cost prohibitive for farmers and rural residents. A number of states have banned backyard burning, and others — including Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan — are now at work on efforts to curb it. Trash burning releases cancer-causing dioxins into the atmosphere, along with arsenic, mercury, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide. The U.S. EPA estimates that 20 million burn barrels across the U.S. produce some 13 million pounds of pollutants every year, making backyard burning the No. 1 quantified source of dioxin emissions in the country.