A TYPICAL LIVESTOCK unit can expect to pay between £160 and £610 a year to dispose of waste under proposals contained in the Agricultural Waste Regulations consultation paper for England and Wales.

For a 100-cow dairy herd, DEFRA predicts costs will range from £230 to £610, while the average hill sheep and cattle unit carrying 100 cattle and 600 sheep can expect to face costs of £200 to £510. Costs are likely to increase according to herd or flock size.

Wastes to be disposed of under the regulations include silage plastics, pesticide containers, fertiliser and feed bags, asbestos and metal.

The main problems facing livestock units will be plastic silage films, says Promar International consultant Paul Henman. “Producers will no longer be able to have open bonfires producing black smoke.

“They will have to pay commercial rates for landfill sites or a skip. This will be a cultural change because producers have not had to think about such regulations before,” he adds.

Figures from BPI Recycled Products show that 23,000t of silage wrap needs to be disposed of annually from livestock units, along with a proportion of the 15,000t of plastic sacks used each year in the UK. At a meeting of a sub-group of the Agricultural Waste Forum, BPI also said that by 2010 the UK could be recovering 25,000t of farm plastics. The sub-group set up to investigate opportunities for a nationwide farm plastic reuse and recovery scheme and has been meeting since Jan 2003 and has met six times in 2004.

“The whole industry needs to push forward on a national collection scheme soon to get something in place in time,” adds Mr Henman. The regulations are expected to come into force in June 2005. He also points out that previous attempts to set up local collection schemes have failed.

These were based on recycling the plastic, but the problem with silage films is that they are contaminated with silage. “It could be recycled easily, if it were clean.”

Some incinerators can burn plastic, because they reach a suitable temperature, adds Mr Henman. But he is not sure these will be a practical option on many units and warns that these could come under tight environmental controls in future.

“Trying to minimise the waste plastic used in the first place could lower costs of disposal. This would include using a silage pit instead of making bales. That is what the regulations are driving at,” he says.

DEFRA advises producers to consult its Waste Minimisation Manual for tips on reducing the level of waste produced. But for many farms few of the tips in the 97-page document, which include reducing silage production and going organic, will prove practical.

Organic status brings with it the benefits of eliminating pesticide and inorganic fertiliser use, also eliminating the need to dispose of pesticide containers and fertiliser bags, it advises.