How to stop invasive non-native plants from spreading

How to stop the spread and dispose of invasive non-native plants that can harm the environment in England.

Applies to England

You must not plant in the wild, or cause to grow in the wild, invasive non-native plants. This can include moving contaminated soil or plant cuttings.

If you find invasive non-native plants on your land, you must stop them from spreading and causing a nuisance or damage to other land or property. If you do not, you could be responsible for any damage they cause and may be prosecuted.

Check what you must do if you find invasive non-native plant species of special concern on your land or property.

Types of invasive non-native plants

The most commonly found invasive non-native plants include:

Find out how to identify other invasive plants.

Treat invasive non-native plants

You can treat and dispose of invasive non-native plants by:

  • spraying with chemicals
  • pulling or digging out live, dead or dying plants
  • cutting back plants to prevent the seeds dispersing
  • burying them
  • burning them
  • disposing of them off site

You must make sure that the way you treat and dispose of invasive non-native plant material does not endanger human health or the environment.

After treating invasive non-native species, you should re-establish native plant species. This will help to reduce soil erosion, provide competition and control them to prevent further invasion.

Read guidance on how to stop Japanese knotweed from spreading.

Spray plants with chemicals

Spraying or injecting the stem with approved chemicals (called ‘herbicides’) is an effective treatment to stop invasive plants from spreading. You’ll usually have to respray to completely kill larger patches and prevent any regrowth of invasive non-native plants.

Get certificates, assessments and permission to spray plants

When using approved chemicals, you must:

Dispose of plant material

Bury plants

You can dispose of invasive non-native plant waste in a landfill site if you have an environmental permit that allows it. This includes soil containing Japanese knotweed or its rhizome (stems that grow underground and can produce roots).

To bury invasive non-native plant waste without a permit, you must follow the conditions in the treatment and disposal of invasive non-native plants: RPS 178.

Burn plants

If you want to burn plant material at the site where it’s growing after you remove it, you must:

You must not:

  • cause a risk to water, air, soil, plants or animals
  • cause a nuisance through noise or odour
  • harm the countryside or places of special interest

If you’re burning waste as an individual, contact your local council to check that burning is allowed.

How to safely dispose of plants off site

Soil or plant material contaminated with invasive non-native plants can cause ecological damage and may be classified as controlled waste. For example, it may contain seeds, rhizomes, corms or fragments of plants that could regrow.

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 responsibly dispose of all soil contaminated with persistent chemicals (including 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.

If you use a site which is not permitted to dispose of waste, you could be fined or go to prison.

Companies that specialise in treating invasive non-native plants

You can supervise the management and disposal of invasive non-native plants yourself, or you can hire a specialist to do it for you.

You must make sure that you or any specialist you use:

Look for a contractor with the following accreditations and registrations:

  • Amenity Forum Membership
  • BASIS Professional Register
  • BASIS Amenity Training Register
  • BASIS Nominated Storekeeper (NSK) Professional Register

Many of these companies belong to one of these trade bodies:

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.

Updates to this page

Published 23 September 2014
Last updated 2 February 2022 + show all updates
  1. Updated guidance on: * what to do if you find invasive non-native plants on your land * how to dispose of plant material

  2. These changes in draft are part of the content improvement audit with Defra. If you need to make an update while the page is still in draft please contact: Includes improved headers and overall content review.

  3. Moved information about ragwort and weeds to a new guide 'Stop harmful weeds, including ragwort from spreading'

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

  5. 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.

  6. Page restructure

  7. First published.

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