THE impact of new waste regulations and how to manage their introduction without getting bogged down by the paperwork
THINK ABOUT how to reduce waste and change disposal practices now advises Mark Okuniewski, waste regulation policy manager at the Environment Agency.
Doing so will help avoid unnecessary expense when the new rules come into force.
The EA estimates the latest legislation will cost farmers £169-403 a year.
“The new controls will mean that uncontrolled burning and burying of waste, as well as the use of farm tips, will no longer be allowed,” says Mr Okuniewski.
“These controls implement EU legislation and already apply to other industries.
“So it means that farming is going to be subjected to the same rules as everyone else.”
The burning of plant matter can continue, he notes. “But there will be restrictions on the quantities.”
Farm tips will become subject to the Landfill Directive controls.
“Farmers will have the choice of whether to continue with them or shut them down.
“Getting the necessary permits is very onerous. So it won‘t be an option for many of the current tips.”
Taking waste off-site to a licensed facility has cost implications.
“DEFRA has calculated that the total cost of compliance for UK agriculture will be £45.9m a year. That‘s around 2% of farm income.”
Some wastes can be recycled on-farm and organisations have been working with farmers to develop recovery schemes, notes Mr Okuniewski.
“Good examples of on-farm recycling are demolition wastes used in roads and tracks, and old tyres on silage clamps.”
Packaging will be the biggest issue for most arable farmers, he believes.
“Farms produce 32,000t of waste plastic packaging every year and 10,000t of waste paper and card packaging.
“Much of this is seasonal waste and relates to when the products are being used.”
Putting pressure on suppliers to help is important.
“There are initiatives, some of which have been more successful than others.
“If you can take deliveries in bulk, or get suppliers to take away empty containers, then you will reduce waste and avoid some of the expense.”
Voluntary and statutory schemes may become commonplace, he believes.
“In Ireland, there‘s a statutory scheme for black plastic. A levy charged on the product pays for a national collection scheme.
“And there are discussions taking place in England to arrange a voluntary collection scheme for empty agrochemical containers.”
Estimates suggest that there are 300,000t of non-natural wastes produced on UK farms each year.
Included in this figure are a wide range of materials – waste packaging, silage plastics, metal, tyres, oils and animal health products.
In addition, there are about 600,000t of scrap metal, tyres and asbestos roof sheeting currently stored on farms, with no plans for disposal.
Surveys show that 90% of farmers dispose of wastes using practices that may not be possible once the controls are implemented.
These include burning waste in the open and putting rubbish in household dustbins.
However, over 40% have changed their practices in some way in recent years.
Not only have they reduced waste, but some of it is being transferred to suppliers and waste contractors.
Nearly three-quarters of farmers pass scrap metal on to local dealers.
Use of private waste contractors is, as yet, uncommon.
Take-back by suppliers does occur but is not widespread, with most being undertaken by vets and machinery specialists.
About 40% of farmers return scrap tyres to their local dealer.
Look in the next issue of Farmers Weekly for the latest Baseline Advice.