Disposing of farm waste

There are a number of pieces of legislation which cover the disposal of farm waste. This article looks at the legal implications of disposing of common types of farm waste and the methods commonly used.

Disposal by means of incineration

Disposing of waste by means of incineration is covered by the Waste Incineration (England and Wales) Regulations 2002.

Disposal at landfill

The burying of general waste on farms is prohibited and there are limits as to what waste can be sent to waste disposal sites.

Any waste which is given to someone else for disposal by be accompanied by a “transfer note” (a written description of the waste). It is also the responsibility of the person whose waste it is to ensure that the person who is to dispose of it is authorised to take it.

Disposal of hazardous waste

There are strict controls relating to the disposal of hazardous waste.

Hazardous waste includes oil, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, certain veterinary medicines, batteries, chemicals and containers which contained hazardous waste and have not been emptied, triple rinsed and drained.

Farms which produce more than 500 kilograms of hazardous waste per year are required to be registered as a hazardous waste producer with the Environment Agency.

Hazardous waste must be disposed of within 12 months. It can be disposed of at an authorised site (one which is licensed to receive hazardous waste) or by using authorised recovery methods.

When taking hazardous waste to an authorised site it is necessary to check what waste is permitted at the site. When employing a waste collector to collect hazardous waste it is necessary to check that they are authorised to take away and dispose of the waste.

Subject to certain exceptions, a consignment note is required whenever hazardous waste is moved and these should be kept for 3 years. Records should also be kept for at least 3 years showing the quantity of the waste, the type of waste, where the waste came from, its destination and how often that type of waste is moved. When employing a waste collector to collect hazardous waste records should also be kept for at least 3 years of the waste collector’s certificate, the environmental and site permit for the site that receives the waste and the way in which the waste is transported.

When disposing of hazardous waste it is also necessary to comply with health and safety regulations, including the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.

Disposal of fallen stock

Fallen stock (livestock that dies of natural causes or disease or which is killed on a farm for purposes other than human consumption) must be disposed of in accordance with the Animal By-Products Regulations (Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2011.

Subject to certain exceptions, the burial or burning of fallen stock in the open is prohibited. This prohibition applies also to afterbirth and stillborn animals.

Fallen stock can be disposed of by incinerating the carcass on the farm using an approved incinerator which has not been used to incinerate other animal by-products where it died or by arranging for it to be disposed of at an approved site.

Disposal of plant material

It may be necessary to obtain an environmental permit from the Environment Agency or register an exemption from environmental permitting before disposing of plant material, allowing it to rot, spreading it or turning it into mulch, for example.

Any diseased plant waste or plant waste that has been infested by insects should be incinerated and not burnt in open air. Incineration can also be used to dispose of other types of plant waste.

Disposal of waste plastic

Waste plastic such as silage wrap and pesticide containers must be disposed of at a registered disposal site. Incineration is prohibited.

Disposal of oil

Any fuel oil or materials contaminated with fuel oil must be disposed of as hazardous waste or recycled for heating. However, only certain types of oil can be recycled for heating.

Waste cooking oils can be reprocessed into biofuels.

Disposal of sewage sludge

The disposal of sewage sludge by means of spreading on agricultural land or by supplying it to another person is governed by the Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations 1989.

There are different rules for treated sewage sludge and untreated sewage sludge and rules relating to the method of application, as to when the land can be grazed and as to when sludge can be used in relation to growing vegetables.

Disposal of waste milk

It may be necessary to obtain an environmental permit from the Environment Agency or register an exemption from environmental permitting before disposing of waste milk by spreading it on land.