Cable burning

Cable burning is a crime.

The illegal activity of burning cable takes place to remove plastic and other insulation materials from the cable. The metal recovered from this is taken to a scrap metal merchant and sold.

It is often found that cables have been stolen and illegally burnt due to the increasing demand for recycled metals such as copper.

Cable burning often takes place in unattended fires. This can create a fire safety risk to those who come in close contact. The metals are explosive in nature. This is due to the metals and associated electrical components.

Harm caused by cable burning

People carrying out cable burning are not the only ones in danger.

The local community is also at risk due to the release of harmful substances. Dioxins, heavy metal and other forms of toxic pollutants can lead to health issues such as -

  • asthma
  • heavy metal poisoning
  • damage to the nervous system
  • cancer
  • kidney or lung infection
  • inflammation or heart related problems

Landowners affected by people carrying out cable burning on their land are responsible for clearing any wastes associated with this activity. They should take steps to prevent persons from entering the land.

Report cable burning

If you see someone burning cable you can report this to us using the form below.

We investigate reports against people responsible for cable burning. This is as long as we can identify and locate the person responsible.

If you are unwilling to provide a witness statement, this may prevent enforcement action being able to be taken.

Any information we ask you to provide will only be used to help us to take action against the person responsible.

If you have -

  • photos
  • dashcam footage
  • mobile video
  • CCTV footage

of what you are reporting to us, keep this safe. You will be asked to provide this once you have completed this form.

Report cable burning (opens in a new window)


A person who burns casing or insulation from a cable with a view to recovering the metal core is guilty of an offence under Section 33 of The Clean Air Act 1993. Maximum penalties of £5,000 apply.

People carrying out this activity may also commit more offences associated with this activity. This result in one or more of the following forms of enforcement action –

  • £400 fixed penalty
  • recovery of clean-up costs. This may include costs to repair damage caused to the highway or public land
  • prosecution and an unlimited fine, imprisonment, or both

How to pay a fixed penalty

Access further information on how to pay your penalty charge.