Why the changes?

The EU Waste Framework Directive requires that waste is recovered or disposed of in ways that do not cause risk to the environment, or harm to human health. The Directive has applied to other sectors of industry since the 1970s. It will now apply to agricultural waste as well, following pressure from the EU. The new regulations are expected to come into force in early 2005, following a 14 week consultation period.

Can the industry have a say?

It’s had a say in initial stages. All sectors of the industry have been united within the Agricultural Waste Stakeholders’ Forum, a body set up in 2002 to identify and tackle issues associated with the planned extension of waste management controls to agriculture. The Agricultural Waste Stakeholders’ Forum is on www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/agforum. The Forum has had an input into the consultation document, which outlines the proposed new regulations.

And now there’s an opportunity to have a say through the consultation document, which has just been published and can be viewed on the Defra website. The government is keen to have responses from farmers and associated industries.

How will the rules affect farms?

90% of farmers are disposing of some wastes using practices that may not be possible once the legal controls are implemented. For example: 83% are burning waste in the open, 32% are using farm tips or burying waste, 77% are putting waste in the household dustbin, over 70% are storing some wastes with no plans for disposal – mainly scrap metal, machinery, tyres and asbestos roof sheets

Agricultural waste will have to be disposed of, or recycled in ways that protect the environment and human health. Farmers will have to:

Send or take their waste for disposal off-farm at licensed sites;

Register a free licensing exemption with the EA to recycle waste on-farm – this can be done online; or apply to the EA for a permit to continue on-farm disposal – an expensive option that will not be economic for most farms.


Stop using them before the regulations come into force, otherwise dumps will be classed as landfill sites, incurring the great expense involved in acquiring a landfill permit/maintaining and closure of a landfill site. Unregulated burying of agricultural waste on farms will be prohibited as soon as the regulations are implemented – there will not be any transition period.


In general, open burning pollutes the environment and poses health risks to farmers, farm workers and local communities and will therefore be banned on the introduction of the new regulations. However, the burning of small quantities of wood and plant material will be allowed under a simple licensing exemption, subject to certain conditions.

The use of drum incinerators to burn plastics will be phased out during a transition period to allow the industry to set up systems for waste collection, such as a pesticide pack recovery service.

What can farmers do now?

Think ahead by minimising the waste produced. It will cut costs if there’s less to dispose of. For more information contact DEFRA publications on 08459 556 000 quoting reference PB4819 and ask for the free publication: Opportunities for saving money by reducing waste on your farm: A manual for farmers and growers; alternatively download a copy on www