Agricultural Waste

Agricultural waste was excluded from the regulations that controlled the management of household, commercial and industrial waste until 2005 in Scotland and 2006 in the remainder of the UK. The implementation of the following regulations means that waste management controls now also apply to agricultural waste and they have the same regulatory requirements as other commercial and industrial wastes.

Agricultural waste must have been produced on a 'farm' in the course of 'farming', it can be both natural and non- natural waste.

Non-Natural Wastes

Common non-natural agricultural wastes include discarded pesticide containers, plastics, bags and sheets, tyres, batteries, clinical waste, old machinery, oil, packaging waste and much more.
Plastic packaging waste from agriculture represents approximately 1.5% of the overall volume of plastic packaging in the waste stream in England. The types of plastic wastes arising can vary and be both bulky and dirty often making the management of these wastes difficult. Around 135,500 tonnes of agricultural plastic waste is produced each year in the UK with;

  • Approximately 32,000 tonnes being produced from plastic packaging waste; and
  • Approximately 103,500 tonnes being produced from Non-Packaging Plastics (including contamination).

WRAP produced a good practice guide for non-packaging plastics and page 4 covers agricultural wastes.

A range of hazardous wastes arise on farms; these can include used syringes and needles, unused animal medicines, asbestos cement roof sheeting and waste oils. In 2003 there were 201,926 agricultural holdings within the UK and 86% of these produced waste oils. These wastes must be disposed of following the;

Natural Wastes
The common natural waste includes slurries and manure. A survey carried out in England, 2003, showed that 93% of all agricultural waste, 43 million tonnes was manure and slurries waste. In the UK, if manures and slurries are used as a fertiliser on agricultural premises then they are technically not seen as a waste and are exempt from waste management regulations. Other regulations still need to be followed such as ground water regulations, causing some restrictions on the spreading of manure and sludge to land.
Guidance on Landspreading for Scotland and Northern Ireland
Manure and slurry  - Code of Good Agricultural Practice (COGAP)

How the Regulations will affect Waste Disposal Activities

Some of the previously common practices for disposal of agricultural waste, which are now not allowed, include:

  • Burning waste in the open. The 2003 survey found that 90% of holdings burned at least one type of waste, with 83% carrying out open burning;
  • Using unlicensed farm tips or burying waste; and
  • Putting farm waste in the household dust-bin.

The regulations mean that farmers and growers will now have to dispose or recycle agricultural waste in a way that will protect the environment and human health. Meaning farmers will have to:

  • Send or take their waste for disposal off-farm at licensed sites;
  • Register a licensing exemption with the appropriate regulatory body to recycle waste on-farm; or
  • Apply to the appropriate regulatory body for a licence to continue on-farm disposal

A guide has been produced to help landowners and farmers reduced and manage their waste.

Agricultural Waste checklists for N.Ireland and Scotland.

Key Legislation

Animal By-Products (Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2011  - The aim of the regulations is to protect human and animal health and the environment. It includes standards for the safe storage, transportation, treatment and disposal of animal by-products. 

The Duty of Care - The Duty of Care applies to all 'Controlled Waste' meaning it applies to all waste materials produced as part of a business. It is 'self regulating' in that waste should not be accepted by or given to anyone who is not authorised to take it.

Environmental Permitting Regulations - An environmental permit may be required if you deposit waste, keep waste, treat waste, dispose of waste.  These Regulations combine the Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) and Waste Management Licensing (WML) regulations and their scope has now been widened to include water discharge and groundwater activities, radioactive substances and provision for a number of Directives, including the Mining Waste Directive.