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Managing the waste on your farm – safely and legally

As a farmer, you’ll deal with a vast amount of waste over the year, including hazardous materials. You have a responsibility to ensure the waste your business produces is stored and disposed of safely, avoiding risk to humans, animals and the environment. Your land could offer attractive solutions for non-agricultural waste disposal. So what are the rules and regulations around waste disposal, and could you be at risk of falling foul of the law?

Disposing of agricultural waste

The agricultural industry produces many types of waste:

  • green waste such as grass cuttings or hedge trimmings
  • biobed waste
  • waste silage wrap
  • pesticide washings
  • empty pesticide or chemical containers
  • waste oil
  • waste sheep dip
  • waste medical containers or equipment.

Each has its own recycling or disposal process, similar to regular waste: landfills or incinerators.1 However, these methods can damage the environment, so composting and recycling are better alternatives to consider when possible.

Hazardous waste, such as oil containers, unrinsed pesticide containers, certain unused animal medicines, fuel, lubricating oil and many more, require specific forms of disposal.2 There are strict health and safety regulations to adhere to as well, including the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH).3 Failing to dispose of these materials correctly could lead to devastating results, not only for the public and the environment but also for your business.4

As well as the dangers of landfills and incineration, chemicals used in farming and agriculture can cause pollution. Pesticides that allow fields to flourish can pollute rivers and streams, damaging the ecosystem.

Tips for managing your waste:

  • Store waste materials safely – Aim to re-use, repair or recycle your waste as much as possible, keep it safe from becoming contaminated when stored.
  • Identify your waste – Using a waste classification code.5 Ensure the person collecting it is registered, and check that they are taking it to a registered facility.
  • Keep records – For at least two years. These notes should include descriptions of what waste has been moved.6
  • When moving hazardous wastes – Follow the consignment note procedure and keep records on-site for three years.7
  • Don’t mix hazardous wastes – With other wastes or materials.8
  • Register with the Environment Agency – As a lower-tier waste carrier if you regularly deliver your own waste to an authorised collection site.9
  • Recycle plastic silage wrap – And sheeting through a farm plastic recycling scheme.
  • Remove waste materials – From your land, gateways, and hedges as soon as possible and dispose of them appropriately or store them securely.
  • Report hazardous waste – And illegal dumping to the Environment Agency, and small scale fly-tipping incidents to the Local Authority on public land. As a landowner, you are responsible for waste on your land.

Risks of accepting waste onto your farm

As well as managing your waste disposal, you may be approached by developers or hauliers to take their surplus material and use it on your farm: raising ground levels, for example. Be careful to ask questions before accepting a proposition of this kind; you may be effectively operating an unlicensed waste site depending on the material involved.10

If you import waste to your farm, you may need to register the correct exemption for that waste or apply for a permit from the Environment Agency.11

By adopting good waste management processes and procedures, you’ll not only meet legal requirements, but you’ll also play your part in protecting the environment. Both are positive ways to protect your reputation.

 

Sources

  1. gov.uk/manage-waste-on-land-guidance-for-land-managers
  2. gov.uk/dispose-hazardous-waste
  3. hse.gov.uk/coshh/
  4. gov.uk/waste-duty-of-care-code-of-practice
  5. gov.uk/how-to-classify-different-types-of-waste
  6. gov.uk/managing-your-waste-an-overview/waste-transfer-notes
  7. gov.uk/hazardous-waste-consignment-note-supplementary-guidance
  8. gov.uk/hazardous-waste-segregation-and-mixing
  9. gov.uk/register-renew-waste-carrier-broker-dealer-england
  10. fwi.co.uk/stick-to-the-rules-if-offered-inert-waste-for-farm-projects
  11. gov.uk/register-your-waste-exemptions-environmental-permits
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