Is it Better to Burn Paper or Throw it Away?

This article discusses if it is better to burn paper or throw it away. Do you have stacks of paper that need to be thrown away? Do you plan on burning it? Are there any rules and regulations that prohibit the burning of paper? The amount of paper in your home accumulates over time, making you wonder if burning them is better than throwing them away. Let us find out the answer below.

Is it better to burn paper or throw it away? Generally, it is better to recycle paper than burn it. Paper can be recycled up to a dozen times, saving resources, water, energy, and reducing pollution. The value and impact and value of recycling paper are greater as compared to the small amount of energy produced when the paper is burned. On the other hand, there are situations wherein burning paper waste is the most eco-friendly option. Burning clean materials like paper is allowed as long as you follow local laws which include rules for open burning, burnable materials, and fire supervision.

Is burning paper outdoors illegal? Does burning paper cause pollution? Is burning paper bad for your health? We will discuss these questions and more. If you are tired of looking at the old stacks of paper in your home office and are wondering about the best way to dispose of them, you can check out the rest of the article for tips and information.

Is it better to burn paper or throw it away
Image by Mariana Marquez from Pixabay

Is it Bad to Burn Paper?

Burning paper is bad for the reason that it can cause accidental fires especially if you are burning it in your chimney. Moreover, the ink printed on magazines, junk mail, and colored gift-wrapping paper releases toxic fumes when burned. If you are using the chimney to burn paper, take note that paper rapidly burns and the flames can go up the chimney and ignite the creosote deposits in the lining. This can cause chimney fires which are very dangerous. Some paper can float up and out of the chimney, and when propelled by the hot air, they can ignite and cause a fire.

Is it Illegal to Burn Paper Outdoors?

Whether it is illegal or not to burn paper outdoors usually depends on where you live. Some towns prohibit the burning of paper, while others allow it under certain conditions which includes not causing a nuisance to the neighbors. Make sure that you check what your homeowner’s association laws state when it comes to burning paper.

Does Burning Paper Cause Pollution?

Burning paper can cause air pollution because as the paper burns, particulates and gaseous air pollutants are emitted into the atmosphere. Most people who burn paper do not realize how harmful this practice is not only to their health but also to the environment. The burning of paper can also produce harmful quantities of air pollutants that can settle on crops and waterways where they eventually get mixed up in our food and affect our health.

Is Burning Paper Bad for Your Health?

Burning paper is bad for your health. The colored and glossy paper found in magazines can release toxins into the air when burned. Burning the colorful pages of paper emits chemical pigments that turn toxic. Moreover, cardboard is harmful to burn because it is often treated with chemicals. In general, burning paper is not advisable, but you can use a small amount of tightly rolled, plain black-and-white newspaper as kindling. See to it that you place the paper between the small bits of wood and do not use paper with colors or gloss for kindling. You can also read this article titled, is a fire pit considered an open fire? Check out the article for an in-depth discussion about the topic.

Harmful Effects of Burning Paper

Burning paper is harmful to the environment because it can release toxic chemicals that pollute the air. Polluted air can be inhaled by both humans and animals. It can also be deposited in the soil, surface water, and on plants. Moreover, burning residue can contaminate the soil and groundwater and enter the human food chain through livestock and crops. Below are some of the harmful effects of burning paper that you need to take note of.


Burning paper releases smoke into the air, which contains vapors and particulate matter. Take note that air pollution that comes from smoke can impact human health. People exposed to air pollutants can experience different symptoms such as eye and nose irritation, coughing, difficulty breathing, and headaches. Furthermore, people with asthma, heart disease, emphysema, and other respiratory diseases are sensitive to air pollutants. Pneumonia, lung infections, allergies, and bronchiolitis are some of the health problems aggravated by burning paper.


Burning paper can also have the risk of accidental wildfires which can threaten or take lives not only of people but of animals as well. When attempting to contain an escaped fire, there is the possibility of sustaining serious burn injuries. On the other hand, the majority of injuries and health issues are indirectly related to the fire like an asthma attack because of excessive smoke inhalation, and there is also the physical or emotional trauma of trying to put out the fire.


Ashes from burning paper can affect human health because potentially toxic compounds can end up in streams, lakes, and rivers. It can also end up in drinking water supplies and food chains. Ash can easily get blown by the wind so you must contain it as soon as the fire burns out. To prevent ash from igniting again, mix it with sand or pour water over it.

Can I Burn Paper in a Fire Pit?

It is not recommended that you burn paper in a fire pit. Do not burn anything in a fire pit other than natural wood. Do not consider a fire pit as a trash incinerator and avoid burning paper, trash, or anything manmade into it. This is because paper and other waste materials can release carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases, and other toxic chemicals into the environment. We have also shared this article titled, how close can a grill be to a fence? Check out the article for tips and information about the things that you need to consider when grilling outdoors.

Can You Burn Old Papers?

In general, it is acceptable to burn old papers, but make sure that you do not cause disturbance to your neighbors while doing it. Moreover, there should be a minimal amount of smoke that comes from burning paper. You can control the amount of smoke by making sure that the paper is thoroughly dry and that the fire is properly aerated. Choose a place that is as far from your neighbor or any structures as possible. You can use a fire barrel or a fire pit structure. Make a fire with the use of little dry wood sticks and place the paper on top of it. See to it that you put the papers in the fire little by little so that you can avoid blocking the fire’s aeration and prevent huge amounts o smoke.

✅ Video – How to Make a Burn Barrel

Big Lou’s Workshop shared the video below on YouTube. It discusses how to make a burn barrel. A burn barrel can be used for burning yard waste and scrap wood. You can also use it to safely burn paper. Check out the video below for step-by-step instructions.

Can I Just Burn Any Paper?

It is not recommended to burn paper such as the ones used in mail letters, envelopes, newspapers, and books. Moreover, do not burn magazines or any paper that are glossy because they are usually coated with plastics, and burning them can cause dangerous fumes to be released into the air.

Is it Okay to Burn Paper in a Wood Stove?

Using a small amount of paper for kindling in a wood stove is okay. However, burning paper especially in excessive amounts should be avoided. You can use a small amount of black and white newspaper if your fire needs a boost, but make sure that it is anchored under the wood. Take note that when the paper is burnt, bits can sometimes float up and out of your chimney if it is uncapped which can create a potential fire hazard. You can also read this article titled, can I burn pellets in a fire pit? Check out the article for an in-depth discussion about the topic.

How Do You Destroy Large Amount of Paper?

You can destroy a large amount of paper by soaking it in bleach. To do this, add a half-gallon of bleach to the trash can or any large barrel that you have at home. Add five gallons of water into the trash can and soak the paper into it. The Bleach breaks down paper and destroys ink, making it an ideal solution for rendering your documents unreadable. On the other hand, you need to be careful when handling bleach. Wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area.

Does Cardboard Work as Kindling?

Cardboard works as kindling and you can use it to light your fire pit. Rip out the cardboard into small strips and loosely place them in the fire pit. You can also add newspaper to start the fire faster. Place the split logs in a crisscrossed position in the fire and light the cardboard.


We hope that this article has helped you understand if it is better to burn paper or throw it away. Take note that when burning paper, the best way to do it is to use a barrel so that you can control the fire. Make sure that you check with your local authorities and your HOA before burning paper outdoors. Thank you for reading!

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