Disposing of farm waste

Disposal by means of incineration

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

If you want to install an incinerator on your farm – or are part of a co-operative of farmers that wishes to install a shared incinerator – you need approval of the installation, associated equipment and storage areas from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

If you’re only incinerating animal carcases or parts of carcases on their own, and not a mix of these animal by-products (ABPs) and other materials, you must get APHA approval. If you incinerate non-ABPs or a mixture of ABPs and non-ABPs you need Environment Agency approval under the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) and registration by APHA. If you’ve been approved by the APHA to burn animal carcases or parts of carcases on their own, you don’t need IED approval.

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 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:

  • asbestos;
  • chemicals, eg brake fluid or print toner;
  • batteries;
  • solvents;
  • pesticides;
  • oils (except edible ones), eg car oil;
  • equipment containing ozone depleting substances, eg fridges;
  • hazardous waste containers.

If your business produces, holds or stores hazardous waste or has hazardous waste removed from its premises you are required to:

  • classify your waste to check if it’s hazardous;
  • separate and store hazardous waste safely;
  • use authorised businesses to collect, recycle or dispose of your hazardous waste – check that waste carriers are registered and waste sites have environmental permits;
  • fill in the parts of a consignment note that apply to you – keep one copy and give two copies to the carrier collecting your waste;
  • keep records (known as a ‘register’) for three years at the premises that produced or stored the waste.

You must keep your copies of consignment notes and consignee returns which you’ll get from businesses that receive your waste (consignees), plus any related documents, eg, a list of carriers when there is more than one and records of rejected loads. If these documents aren’t accurate or complete, you must keep a record of any missing information.

Disposal of plant material

You may need 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 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

If milk is produced on your farm, animal by-product (ABP) regulations don’t apply and, as long as it stays on your farm, you can dispose of it how you want, including:

  • spreading it on your land without stopping animals from grazing on the land;
  • feeding it to calves on your premises.

However, you must apply for a waste disposal permit from the Environment Agency before spreading milk on your farm, unless you qualify for an exemption from waste permitting.

Article written by...
Nicola Laver LLB
Nicola Laver LLB

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A non-practising solicitor, Nicola is also a fully qualified journalist. For the past 20 years, she has worked as a legal journalist, editor and author.