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Waste Regulation and Farmland

Until 2006 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 2005 in Scotland, agricultural waste was exempt from the regulations that controlled the management of household, commercial and industrial waste.


With the introduction of the Waste Management Regulations England & Wales 2006, Waste Regulations -Scotland 2005 and Waste Management Regulations 2006 - Northern Ireland waste management controls now also apply to agricultural waste and they have the same regulatory requirements as other commercial and industrial wastes.

There have been several successful prosecutions by the Environment Agency for the infringement of the England and Wales regulations, so correct waste management should be a key priority for farmers.

Did you Know: Transfer notes are required for every load of waste that is removed from your premises, whether it’s considered hazardous or not.

What is agricultural waste?

Agricultural waste is produced on a farm in the course of farming. Consideration needs to be given to recycling or disposing of this waste as it can be both natural and non-natural waste. Agricultural practices produce numerous different streams of waste, each of which has its own recycling and disposal methods. 

This might include:

  • Waste silage
  • Pesticide
  • Biobed waste
  • Waste oil
  • Empty pesticide/chemical containers
  • Waste sheep/dip
  • Brake fluids
  • Anything used on animals, including syringes
  • Fertiliser bags
  • Green waste
  • Unused animal medicines

Farms have a duty of care to dispose of waste according to their own particular requirements.

Using waste on farmland

When spreading waste on farmland, the full impact on the environment needs to be considered. Farmers are permitted to spread the waste on agricultural land to help improve or maintain the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil to grow crops. For instance, this might include adding chalk to the soil to increase the lime content.

Animal by-products will usually require processing before they can be spread on land; however, exceptions can be made for shellfish and eggshells. Visit the GOV.UK website for further clarification on these exceptions.

There is also a range of spreading activities that cannot be carried out. For example, you are not allowed to:

  • Spread waste that does not benefit the land.
  • Spread waste on non-agricultural land.
  • Dispose of waste under this exemption. This might include applying waste that will not benefit the land or applying more than is needed to provide benefit.

Permits or exemptions

Any farmer that intends to use waste materials on their land will need to have an Environmental Permit or register their exemptions with the Environment Agency before the material can be used in England and Wales.

The environmental permitting exemption conditions specify the types and quantities of waste which can be used and define the purposes by which they can be used.

Waste management companies and waste carriers may offer waste materials for use on-farm and may offer to register the exemptions on behalf of the farmer. It’s important that farmers clarify this is legitimate and as described and is used in accordance with permit or exemption conditions.

Any waste that a farmer allows to be deposited on their land becomes their responsibility. Suppose this is unsuitable for the purpose for which was it was used or contrary to conditions of a permit or exemption. In that case, it could result in an investigation either by the local authority or the Environmental Agency. You will also be required to remove the waste from your premises at your own expense.

What conditions apply to spreading waste?

Before any waste is spread, it is important to note that you cannot spread waste if;

  • The land is waterlogged, frozen or covered with snow.
  • You should refrain from spreading waste if the ground has been frozen for 12 hours or more in the 24 hours before you want to begin your spreading.
  • Biobed or biofilter materials must be stored for 12 months before it’s spread.
Other considerations to make
  • Sludges, wash waters or effluents from washing fruit or vegetables on a farm can only be spread on land at the same farm.
  • Waste milk can only be spread if it’s not been stored for 24 hours, must be diluted with an equal or greater amount of slurry before it’s spread, and can only be spread on the same area once in any 4 week period.
  • All waste must be stored in a secure location prior to being spread.

Expert help and advice

BioteCH4 is one of the leading AD operators in the UK. Across our six sites, we handle the collection and transportation of food waste, oils and fats recycling.

Contact us today for expert advice on pollution prevention and all aspects of controlled waste management.

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