Sheriff’s Office

Open Burning of Leaves and Yard Waste

In the fall, numerous open burning complaints have been received by Polk County in unincorporated Polk County, the information below is provided to inform residences in these areas about open burning regulations affecting them and their neighbors.

 Informational Regulatory Notice:  Currently open burning is allowed by regulation in the unincorporated areas of Polk County. However, open burning may be restricted if a public nuisance is created by the unreasonable or excessive open burning activities in your area.  *Reasonable burn management precautions are detailed below.

  •  Please keep in mind that under Polk County regulations & Iowa Code the open burning of certain materials is illegal and subject to penalties. 
  • Polk County staff will investigate all complaints and take appropriate enforcement actions if necessary.
  • Enforcement is necessary to improve our air quality and environment through educating citizens and promoting awareness of the environmental impacts of our actions and awareness of applicable county regulations.

Materials NOT allowed to be open burned:  any hazardous waste, animal waste, animal bedding materials, oils, any household waste, garbage, refuse, plastics, construction materials, tires, wire, insulation, dimensional lumber, etc.  If you have questions, contact the Air Quality Division at (515-286-3705).

ALLOWED materials to be open burned in (Unicorporated Polk County, Iowa):  landscape waste originating on your property; yard waste, grass clippings, leaves, twigs, small branches, etc.  Burning of hauled-in landscape waste is not allowed.  The material must originate or grow on your own property.

*Reasonable burn management precautions: Always use these best burn management tips when open burning allowed materials. 

  • Allow the material several days of drying time for a more effective burn and reduced smoldering.
  • Never burn green, wet material. Wet material produces more smoke and takes longer to burn.
  • Watch for favorable weather conditions and safe wind speeds. Wind speeds of 5 to 10 mph, steady from a desirable direction are preferred to minimize adverse effects.
  • Burn small amounts of dry leaves, dry twigs, dry branches and dry plant clippings, less than three cubic yards of material.
  • Monitor the fire carefully and limit smoldering of the material.
  • Limit excessive open burning activity, burning should not exceed (1-2) times per month.
  • Be aware of drought-like conditions and any bans on burning that may be in place.
  • Consider your neighbors when open burning. The smoke can be an immediate health concern for some people.
  • If smoke is adversely impacting your neighbor stop burning & wait for favorable weather conditions.

Remember to Recycle & Compost: 

 Composting Benefits:

  • Yard waste can be recycled: It’s often environmentally beneficial to chip branches and compost leaves.
  • Compost can be a soil conditioner: With compost, you are creating rich humus for lawn and gardens. This adds nutrients to your plants and helps retain moisture in the soil.
  • Reduces landfill volume: Composting can divert yard & household waste away from the landfill.
  • Introduces beneficial organisms to the soil: Microscopic organisms in compost help aerate the soil, break down organic material for plant use and ward off plant disease.
  • Good for the environment: Composting offers a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers.

Recycling Resources

  • Curb It! is the residential recycling program in most Central Iowa communities. Each residence is equipped with a green Curb It! cart to set at the curb bi-weekly on the same day as garbage collection. Contact the Metro Waste Authority (515-244-0021) for information & hours.
  • The Metro Hazardous Waste Drop-Off located in Bondurant, serves residents that want to dispose of hazardous items.  Contact Metro Hazardous waste (515-967-5512) for information & hours.
  •  Leaf & Yard Waste:  Contact your garbage collection & yard waste hauler to inquire about your leaf and yard waste removal options.     

 If you have questions, requests or comments regarding open burning within Polk County contact the Polk County Air Quality Division at:

Phone: (515)-286-3705


Contact Us

Phone: (515)-286-3705
Fax: (515)-286-3437
Operating Hours: 7am - 4:30pm / M-F
5885 NE 14 Street
Des Moines, IA 50313