Stop invasive non-native plants from spreading

How to identify, control and dispose of invasive non-native plants that can harm the environment.

Applies to England

You must not plant in the wild, or cause to grow in the wild, listed plants which are either non-native, or invasive non-native. This can include moving contaminated soil or plant cuttings. If you do, you can be fined or sent to prison for up to 2 years.

You must not import, transport, keep, breed, sell, use or exchange, grow or cultivate, or release into the environment species of invasive non-native (alien) plants. This can include intentionally moving contaminated soil or plant cuttings. If you do, you can be fined or sent to prison for up to 2 years.

You can apply for a permit to use listed species for research, ex-situ conservation, and medicinal purposes.

If you want to use listed species for other activities in exceptional cases for reasons of public interest, including social and economic reasons, you must apply for a permit.

The most commonly found invasive, non-native plants include:

  • Japanese knotweed
  • Giant hogweed
  • Himalayan balsam
  • Rhododendron ponticum
  • New Zealand pygmyweed (this is banned from sale)

You do not have to remove these plants or control them on your land. If you allow Japanese knotweed to grow on anyone else’s property you could be prosecuted or given a community protection notice for causing a nuisance .

Read the guidance on how to prevent Japanese knotweed from spreading.

Treat invasive non-native plants

You can get rid of invasive non-native plants by methods including:

  • spraying plants with chemicals
  • burying plants
  • burning plants
  • disposing of plants off site

Spray plants with chemicals

Spraying with chemicals (known as ‘herbicides’) is an effective treatment to stop invasive plants from spreading. You must only use approved herbicides.

It usually takes repeated applications of herbicides to completely kill larger patches of invasive non-native plants

Get certificates, assessments and permission to spray plants

When using chemicals you must:

Bury plants

Get permission from the Environment Agency before you bury invasive non-native plant waste on your land.

To bury invasive non-native plant waste without a permit you must meet the conditions in Treatment and disposal of invasive non-native plants: RPS 178. You can dispose of this plant waste in a landfill site if you have a bespoke environmental permit allowing it.

You must tell the Environment Agency a week before you intend to bury Japanese knotweed.

Burn plants

If you’re a farmer or landowner burning invasive non-native plant waste, you must tell:

You’ll also need a registered waste exemption or environmental permit if you’re a business - this includes if you’re a farmer.

If you’re burning invasive non-native plant waste privately as an individual you should check with your local council that burning is allowed.

Dispose plants off site safely

Soil or plant material contaminated with invasive non-native plants can cause ecological damage and may be classified as controlled waste.

It’s an offence to keep, treat or dispose of waste that could harm:

  • the environment
  • human health

To dispose of invasive non-native plant waste off site you must:

You cannot compost most non-native plants because they:

  • are usually persistent
  • will survive the composting process
  • usually infest areas where the compost is used

You must dispose responsibly all soil contaminated with persistent chemicals such as herbicides that do not break down, which are usually hazardous waste. Find out how to dispose of:

In most cases, you’ll need to hire a specialist contractor.

Contact the Environment Agency

Contact the Environment Agency if you want to:

  • find out when you need a waste licence to dispose of waste
  • complain about waste producers passing Japanese knotweed waste to waste carriers without telling them what it is

General enquiries

National Customer Contact Centre
PO Box 544
S60 1BY


Telephone 03708 506 506

Telephone from outside the UK (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm GMT) +44 (0) 114 282 5312

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

The impact of COVID-19 means you may experience some delays in responses.

Published 23 September 2014
Last updated 20 May 2019 + show all updates
  1. Moved information about ragwort and weeds to a new guide 'Stop harmful weeds, including ragwort from spreading'

  2. Guidance revised. Japanese knotweed information moved onto separate page (but linked from this page).

  3. Removed section on 'Control invasive, non-native plants as part of a land management scheme' and RPA contact details as this is no longer part of cross compliance.

  4. Page restructure

  5. First published.