What to consider before installing a poultry incinerator

Incinerator suppliers are handling an increasing number of enquiries from poultry units that want to cut fallen stock disposal costs and reduce biosecurity risks from farm-to-farm collections.

Any livestock farm can benefit from an incinerator. Poultry-wise, holdings that are suitable include layer units, broiler farms or hatcheries.

We ask supplier Alex Billingsley of Inciner8 to explain the benefits and common pitfalls involved in setting up an on-farm unit.

See also: Everything you need to know about poultry feed additives

How many on-farm incinerators have been installed?

In the UK, there are now more than 50 incinerators on farms, but disease threats such as avian influenza in poultry and African swine fever in the pig sector are seeing a rise in enquiries.

Heightened risks from these diseases have already seen more than 200 units installed in Europe.

Planning practicalities

What are the different types of incinerators?
The systems can be powered using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), gas and diesel and also require either a single- or triple-phase electrical connection. Models range from small – 10kg/hour, to large 700kg/hour throughputs.

Buying the wrong capacity machine for a farm’s needs is one of the most common mistakes. Bigger isn’t always better when you are trying to incinerate waste as efficiently as possible.

A machine that can’t meet the required throughput can lead to overfilling, which effectively chokes the chamber of air and prevents total combustion.

The main things to learn are: how much waste should be loaded into the primary chamber, the length of burn required and a suitable cleaning schedule.

It is extremely important to establish the size of the farm and mortality rate to identify the best machine.

Poultry incinerator

Larger models capable of throughputs in excess of 50kg/hour will require local authority approval. © Inciner8

What are the main issues to consider for site location?
For anyone looking to install an incinerator, selecting the right site is critical and can mean the difference between needing or not needing planning permission.

What about planning permission and licences?
Local authorities should always be notified of a planned installation and the guidance followed carefully.

Planning permission is not required providing the machine is low capacity or below 50kg/hour.

For these incinerators, an application must be submitted to Defra in conjunction with its latest guidelines to get the appropriate licence.

If the unit is above the 50kg/hour throughput, approval must be sought from the local authority.

How long does planning take?
If planning is required it can take six to 12 months, but a disputed or complex application can be even longer. Using a local planning expert is advisable to help ensure the process runs smoothly.

Is there likely to be local opposition?
It is very rare to receive objections for on-farm incinerators as they all adhere to Defra guidelines and meet emission standards.

Opposition is likely only in built-up areas, or when sites are surrounded by high trees or other structures. Tall surrounding structures may mean the incinerator stack has to be extended to ensure it clears any obstructions. 

The extra height may mean planning would be required but, again, it varies dramatically according to the authority.

If farmers do highlight any concerns or objections, the most common reasons behind complaints come from a lack of understanding.

People associate the word incinerator with smoke and it is generally seen as a negative solution, but concerns can quickly be allayed when the advantages of a modern, efficient incinerator are explained.

Incinerator positioned under shelter

An incinerator needs a level, reinforced concrete base and robust shelter to protect it from the elements. © Inciner8

Construction considerations

Where should the incinerator be sited on the farm?
An incinerator should be positioned well away from accommodation, natural watercourses and anything highly combustible. It must have a rigid shelter or well-ventilated, purpose-built structure to protect the unit from the elements. There must also be a constant electrical supply at the installation point.

What groundwork is needed?
This varies from site to site as machines all have different weights. The incinerator must be mounted on a level concrete base which can accept the weight of the chosen model of incinerator.

The reinforced concrete base should be at least 20cm deep with a 50cm foundation.

What about power sources – gas, electric or renewable supply generation?
If using gas, a qualified gas installer must make the connections to the machine. There must also be continual electrical power to the proposed location and an alternative power supply in case of a power cut.

What are the access considerations?
It is advisable to allow 2m around each side of the incinerator for easy maintenance.

It is also important when siting a machine to consider access to the main chamber loading door ensuring there is enough space to load safely.

What are the timescales?
Usually, machines can be installed within eight weeks but this varies depending on site preparation.

What are the operational practicalities?

  • Burning time Machines are categorised by the amount of waste they can combust/hour when at full temperature. Burn times vary widely based upon the amount of fallen livestock and the weight of each bird. Each site is different, but a typical burn ranges between six to 10 hours.
  • Working times Incinerators give the farm the ability to burn as and when they need to, and can fit in around the day-to-day routine.
  • Waste disposal The incinerator reduces carcasses to ash at about 3-10% of the original waste. Dependent on the waste category, it may be possible to landspread if the appropriate licence is issued by Defra or the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha). If this isn’t approved, waste can be disposed of at a suitably licensed waste site.

What rules govern the installation and use of an incinerator?

If incinerating animal by-products (carcasses and body parts), operators must have Apha approval. 

There are forms to complete (ABPR2) on the Defra.gov website which should be returned to the Apha.

For other general waste such as wood, old packaging or feeds, an Environment Agency approval is required under the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) and registration by Apha (using form AB117).

Being transparent about the intended uses for the incinerator will ensure the local authority can approve it appropriately at the outset.

Cost and payback times

  • Planning/consultancy If planning is required, it could amount to more than £1,000 
  • Initial outlay Machines vary greatly in price, depending on the capacity and fuel type required, but the range is £4,000-£21,000.
  • Ongoing energy requirements  3-20 litres of fuel/hour during the heat-up of the system, then minimal amounts to maintain temperature.
  • Return on Investment (ROI) Many machines last in excess of 10 years and will offer an ROI well within that period.