Manage waste on land: guidance for land managers

How to deal with waste, including hazardous waste, and prevent pollution.

You have a legal duty of care to make sure your waste doesn’t cause problems for the environment, such as pollution of surface water and/or groundwater.

Types of waste

As a land manager you’ll produce certain types of waste. These may include:

  • 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

Read about the special controls if you deal with animal by-products or handle packaging waste.

Hazardous waste

If you produce hazardous waste you must follow specific rules including maintaining records of waste movements. The following types of waste may be hazardous:

  • oil containers
  • unrinsed pesticide containers
  • animal health packaging
  • fertiliser bags
  • smoke canisters
  • sheep dip
  • certain unused animal medicines
  • syringes, needles, disposable gloves and dressing used on infected animals
  • aerosols with an orange hazard symbol
  • lead acid and nickel or cadmium batteries
  • fuel and lubricating oil
  • brake fluid

You can manage pesticide containers as non-hazardous if they’ve been triple rinsed in line with industry best practice guidance.

Keep hazardous waste to a minimum. Mixing hazardous waste with non-hazardous waste is illegal unless you have a permit covering this.

Find out about identifying and managing hazardous waste.

Moving waste

If you regularly transport waste, whether it’s your own waste or waste belonging to others, you must be registered as a waste carrier. You’ll need to pay a registration fee if you want to transport certain types of waste.

Find out about your responsibilities as a waste carrier.

If you ask someone else to move your waste you should make sure that they’re registered. If you don’t check that somebody taking your waste is authorised and it’s fly-tipped, you could be liable and may be fined.

When you pass your waste onto a waste carrier or to a waste management site you need to give them a transfer note. You must keep a copy of the transfer note for a minimum of 2 years. Different rules apply when you move hazardous waste.

Waste use, treatment, recovery and disposal

Usually any waste treatment, recovery or disposal needs an environmental permit from the Environment Agency. It’s illegal to bury waste on your farm without an environmental permit.

When you don’t need a permit

You can carry out certain low risk (‘exempt’) activities without a permit. However, you’ll need to meet the limits and conditions of the exemption, and you’ll usually need to tell the Environment Agency before your begin the activity.

There are exemptions for:

You must be able to meet the conditions set out by each exemption. You must register each of these waste exemptions with the Environment Agency before you carry out the activity.

If you can’t manage your waste within the set restrictions you may need to apply for a permit.

When you need a waste permit

You need an environmental permit for certain waste activities. These could be simple (‘standard rules’) permits for activities such as composting, anaerobic digestion, landspreading or use of waste. You need an environmental permit for disposing liquid wastes.

Find out more about the standard rules permits that are available and how to apply.

Common land management waste activities that may require a permit include:

Giving or receiving waste for composting

If someone else takes your waste for composting you should:

  • check they can prove that they are authorised to carry waste
  • make sure that the waste is being taken to a properly authorised site, ie a registered exempted site or a permitted site
  • give them a transfer note including a description of the waste, signed by both parties, and keep copies for at least 2 years

If you take waste from someone else for composting on your farm you should:

  • make sure you are allowed by law to take it - you can check this by contacting the Environment Agency on 03708 506 506 (find out about call charges)
  • make sure both parties have completed and signed a waste transfer note, including a description of the waste

Catering waste and animal by-products must not be brought onto premises where livestock are kept.

Storing and managing waste for composting

The Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations state that compost material must be stored securely and kept safe from accidental spills or leaks. You shouldn’t allow liquids to escape into watercourses, and you must keep liquid waste in a sealed container for recycling or disposal.

Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) and groundwater Source Protection Zones (SPZs)

If your land falls within an NVZ or groundwater SPZ, there may be additional rules that affect your waste and recycling. Find out more about NVZ and Groundwater Protection: Principles and Practice (GP3).

Fly-tipping on private land: landowner responsibilities

Fly-tipping is the illegal dumping of liquid or solid waste on land or in water. It’s against the law to allow fly-tipping on your land as fly-tipped waste can harm human health or the environment.

If you find waste dumped illegally on your land or water (eg river, stream, pond or ditch) you must:

Your local council or the Environment Agency may take enforcement action (like your local council serving you a notice to remove the waste) if you don’t get the waste removed.

Report the incident

You should report the incident to your local council or the Environment Agency.

You should give the details (if you have them) of the date, time, location and description of the waste and of any vehicle involved.

When your council will clear waste

Your council has a duty to clear the waste when the fly-tipping incident is on land councils must keep clear. Your council might charge you if it removes fly-tipped waste from your land.

When the Environment Agency will clear waste

The Environment Agency will only give you advice or clear the waste if the waste is harmful to human health or if there’s an immediate threat to the environment, eg, if it’s:

  • a large amount of hazardous waste (your local council is responsible for smaller amounts)
  • more than 5 cubic metres of asbestos
  • 75 litres or more of potentially hazardous waste in drums or containers
  • more than a large lorry load (about 20 cubic metres) of any type of waste
  • in water and could pose a flood risk or cause pollution

Burning stubble or crop residues

You’re breaking the law if you burn cereal stubble or crop residues, eg oilseed rape, unless allowed by the Crop Residues (Burning) Regulations.

Instead of burning stubble and crop residues you should bale and cart straw from the fields, or chop the straw and plough it into the soil before establishing the next crop.

Published 8 May 2014
Last updated 19 July 2016 + show all updates
  1. Removed "The wash water will need to be managed appropriately" because the preceding link explains how to manage wash water. Added "ie a registered exempted site or a permitted site"make sure that the waste is being taken to a properly authorised site, added "including a description of the waste" to make sure both parties have completed and signed a waste transfer note Changed "Some councils offer a chargeable clearance service for fly-tipping on private land." to Your council might charge you if it removes fly-tipped waste from your land Added "of any type of waste" to more than a large lorry load (about 20 cubic metres) Changed "It is illegal to burn cereal stubble or crop residues, for example, oil seed rape, except in certain specified circumstances which are listed in in The Crop Residues (Burning) Regulations 1993." to You're breaking the law if you burn cereal stubble or crop residues, eg oilseed rape, unless allowed by the [Crop Residues (Burning) Regulations](' Removed the advice (and patrician overkill) "Burning stubble and crop residues releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and can cause a nuisance. It can also deprive the soil of valuable organic material."
  2. Replaced fly-tipping section with Fly-tipping on private land: landowner responsibilities to describe more accurately and fully what landowners and the Environment Agency have to do in different circumstances.
  3. Guidance on the need to register as a hazardous waste producer removed as from 1 April 2016 this is no longer a requirement.
  4. Added section 'Burning stubble or crop residues'.
  5. First published.