Don’t rubbish the idea of recycling waste; it could have benefits.

With the Environment Agency’s green leaflet highlighting producers’ responsibilities when handling waste circulated with last week’s Farmers Weekly (2 December) comes a timely reminder that the way we think about and handle waste is due for change.

But don’t think its just farming that’s affected; many other industries saw waste regulations introduced in the early ’90s when agriculture was given a temporary exemption.

Now it’s the sector’s turn to come into line, starting early 2006.

Aside from the need for registration and administration, there are schemes in operation to help producers handle waste (see Professional services in Classified).

Plastic spray cans and silage wrap are two key components that have dedicated schemes already set up in some regions.

Operators do charge a fee for the removal (as plastic recycling plants take waste collected, but do not pay for the material) to cover operating costs and in return some offer a fully-auditable receipt service to help satisfy the relevant authorities.

A key component of any waste sent off the farm for recycling or handling will be the receipt of waste transfer notes.

These ensure any business removing material from a farm premises is registered and able to recycle it properly.

Failure to produce transfer notes upon request to the relevant authorities could see producers penalised, as a duty of care to dispose of waste correctly has been breached.

Probably the biggest single change is the banning of burying and burning waste on-farm. These remain two key areas of concern, say officials.

Both will be banned early in 2006 (although exemptions do apply from some apparatus such as drum incinerators) leaving producers to find new ways of removing waste.

Both DEFRA and the Environment Agency offices will help producers to locate recycling schemes across the regions for various forms of farm waste. Access to the internet will help, but telephone advice is also being offered.

The bottom line is likely to be more administration and cost for producers, admit officials, but the reward will be a tidier, more environmentally-aware countryside – something we should all applaud.