News story

Farm suppliers warned over waste materials rules

New enforcement programme targets inappropriate landspreading

Landspreading on a field
Rules exist around what can be spread on land

Waste materials from external suppliers are routinely used on farms. They are used in a variety of ways from soil conditioning and fertiliser through to building farm tracks and animal bedding.

Recycling has become an integral part of modern life. As technology advances, it’s possible to recycle more materials and in turn there is a real wealth of different waste materials available. So too is there a wealth of suppliers who don’t play by the rules.

They wittingly cause harm to the environment and other peoples’ livelihoods through the use of inappropriate waste. And the rules, there to protect our environment, are pretty clear.

During a routine inspection of a permitted composting facility in Yorkshire, the owner was found to be in breach of the conditions of their permit by continuing to accept prohibited waste products and spreading them to land without prior approval. The owner was subsequently prosecuted and ordered to pay £800 plus £4,890 costs.

Iain McDonell, senior environment officer at the Environment Agency said:

There are many suppliers out there who do abide by the rules, but for those who don’t the penalties can be serious. All suppliers should have the correct paperwork in place and ensure the conditions of their permit are met both in the waste material they accept and what they spread onto land.

Farmers and landowners also have a duty of care and should check that the waste material they are accepting meets legal requirements. Anyone unsure of the requirements can check on the National Farmer’s Union checklist which is available to download www.nfuonline.com/land-spreading_v3. Taking these preventative measures not only helps to safeguard our environment, but livelihoods too.

Cases such as these highlight that there is still more to be understood around the impacts of inappropriate waste being spread to land. This coupled with an increasing number of farms being targeted for the unregulated disposal of waste, have been a catalyst for our Materials to Land (M2L) project.

Part of a £4.2million waste enforcement programme, M2L looks into waste derived materials that are spread to land as a fertiliser or soil improver. The project will help us assess the scale and impact of potentially inappropriate landspreading, what the resulting risks might be to the environment and our health and exactly how beneficial these waste materials are to the land.

Since it started in May 2015, the project is moving ahead apace and along with our consultants, AECOM, around 40 landspreading inspection visits are planned for this autumn and winter, with 30 visits already completed. During the inspection visits, samples are taken from stored waste and the land on which it will be spread. The results gathered will then help us inform and update guidance and ways of working on landspreading for farmers and operators.

Published 1 December 2015