DIY: Garbage Incinerator

Written by scarlett gauthier
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DIY: Garbage Incinerator
Some debris can be recycled but other trash must be either taken to a landfill or burnt. (garbage image by Alexey Klementiev from

Incinerators, also known as modified burn barrels, are an effective way to dispose of debris and garbage that cannot be recycled. Many rural and country homes, such as farms and ranches, and campsites use garbage incinerators to dispose of trash and keep animals away by removing the smell of garbage. You can build your own garbage incinerator for your backyard or farm to burn debris in a safe and controlled way.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 55-gallon drum
  • Pliers
  • Wrench
  • Screwdriver
  • Measuring tape
  • Handheld grinder
  • 5/8-inch woven metal mesh screen
  • Calculator
  • Tie wire
  • Weed-removal tool
  • Shovel
  • Small twigs and branches
  • Leaves and bark
  • Matches

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  1. 1

    Remove the top of the 55-gallon drum by loosening the bolts with a wrench and prying off the large retainer ring with a screwdriver or pliers.

  2. 2

    Use a measuring tape to measure the diameter of the drum. Cut a piece of woven metal mesh with the handheld grinder that is slightly larger in width and length than the diameter of the barrel to form a cover for the top of the barrel.

  3. 3

    Calculate the circumference of the barrel with a calculator. Multiply the value for pi (3.14) by the value for the diameter of the drum to determine the circumference.

  4. 4

    Cut a second piece of screening approximately 6 inches in width with the handheld grinder. The length of the piece should be equal to the circumference of the barrel. Bend the piece of mesh to form a circular shape with the same circumference as the barrel. Loop tie wire around each end of the mesh wire piece with pliers to keep the piece from coming apart and straightening out.

  5. 5

    Lay the drum down on its side. Cut 3-by-3-inch square vents in the lower portion approximately 3 inches from the bottom of the barrel with a handheld grinder. The square vents should be evenly spaced around the barrel.

  6. 6

    Insert the circular metal mesh screen piece in the bottom of the drum. The mesh will cover the square vents to prevent waste from escaping the barrel. Position the barrel so it is upright.

  7. 7

    Determine the location where you want to place the incinerator. Place the barrel in a location at least 30 feet away from any structures and buildings, as well as 50 feet from any underground or above ground utility corridor.

  8. 8

    Clean the area surrounding the barrel by removing the weeds or plants until the ground becomes soil or gravel. Use a shovel to remove grass or a weed removal tool to remove any weeds if there is no grass. Clear a circle approximately 10 feet from the incinerator on all sides.

  9. 9

    Place small twigs or branches in the bottom of the drum and use matches to start the fire. Add bark, leaves and other branches to keep the fire alive. Add your debris in small quantities. Cover the top of the incinerator with the metal mesh cover. Only burn small amounts of debris at a time and avoid leaving the incinerator unattended for long periods of time.

Tips and warnings

  • Avoid using the incinerator on days that are too dry or windy.
  • Keep water and a shovel handy to put out any accidental fires.
  • Check with local fire authorities for regulations on incinerators as they are not permitted within some cities.
  • Avoid putting items made of plastics, rubber, styrofoam, asbestos and other materials that do not burn easily in the incinerator.

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