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:
- make sure anyone spraying holds a certificate of competence for herbicide use or works under direct supervision of a certificate holder
- carry out a Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) assessment
- get permission from Natural England if the area is protected, for example sites of special scientific interest
- get agreement from the Environment Agency to use herbicides in or near water if the plants are near water
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.
If you’re a farmer or landowner burning invasive non-native plant waste, you must tell:
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:
- use a registered waste carrier
- send it to an authorised landfill site or suitable disposal site - check with the site directly, contact your local authority or check the Environment Agency public register
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
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.
The impact of COVID-19 means you may experience some delays in responses.