No time to waste

THE DAYS of scruffy farms, with silage wrap blowing about the place, heaps of decaying tyres and abandoned farm machinery that last saw service when Harold Wilson was prime minister could be drawing to a close.

Well, maybe not for a while, but once the Environment Agency’s agricultural waste regulations start to bite, we’re all likely to come under pressure to clean up our act.

Our article on p74 of the March 25 issue of Farmers Weekly gave an early warning of what’s to come.

Old tyres, waste oil, farm dumps, spray containers, bonfires, asbestos, scrap metal, even rubble and soil are likely to be included, with stricter rules for the nastier items.

Ben Angell-James of Balfours Environmental Consultants in Shrewsbury handles a lot of enquiries from farmers wondering what they will and won’t have to do after December, so we asked him to give some pointers.

We also talked to a selection of farm plastic recycling firms to find out how the different collection systems are likely to work.

So when will the new agricultural waste regs come in?

December 2005 is the short answer and they’ll be phased in over a 12-month period.

Some things will happen immediately, though:

Large-scale burning of waste on bonfires (excluding wood and plant matter) will be banned.

Burial of waste in farm tips will be banned Burial of asbestos will be bannedOther measures will come in over the period Dec 2005 to Dec 2006.

Registering for a exemption to dispose of waste on-farm or reuse it will have to be done by Dec 06.

The EA says the first year will be one of “advice and education” and enforcement will start to happen after that.

What are my options for farm waste after that?

There are five main options:

Store it for 12 months before disposal or 36 months before reuse Take it to a recycling or disposal site Pay a licensed contractor to take it away Register an exemption to reuse it or dispose of it, for example using tyres on the silage clamp Get a landfill permit or waste management licence to bury it on-farm Can I still bury asbestos-cement sheets?

Until the new regs come in, you can.

But you mustn’t try to hide it.

Dig a hole in a spot that’s not likely to be disturbed, ideally line it with thick plastic, and then cover the asbestos with 2-3ft of soil.

Mark the spot clearly and keep a record in the farm office of how much asbestos there was, what form it was in and when it was buried.But even though it’s legal, this is not a route Mr Angell-James recommends.

It may not breach SFP cross-compliance conditions, but if you ever sell the farm you will need to declare it as part of the pre-contract enquiries.

Do I need to get a professional in to do an asbestos survey?

No, you can do it yourself but there is a danger of missing some of the lesser-known forms of asbestos.

Rope used in high-temperature applications can contain asbestos, for instance, as can some bitumen coatings, roof slates, felt, toilet cisterns and even ceiling coatings.

I have masses of black plastic left from wrapped bales.

What will I do with that?

Your options after December are pretty limited.

You could get a licence exemption to store it for up to 12 months, but who wants a plastic mountain on the farm?

The best bet will probably be to use one of the plastic recycling schemes being set up around the country.

Many of the people setting up collection schemes are farmers, who have the obvious advantage of knowing what sort of plastics they’re dealing with.

Here is a list of the collection schemes we know of – If you operate a scheme and are not listed here, please email your details to

FarmPlas Network (England and Wales) 08707 801 000.

Solway Recycling (UK-wide) 01387 730 666.

Farm Plastics Recycling (Lancs) 07736 678 734

DA Harrison (West Cumbria) 01697 331 000

Second Life Plastics (Wales and the west) 01639 830 617

Farm Plastic Recycled (Worcs, Glos, Shrops, Herefords, Warks, Monmouth) David Perks 01531 640 381

Crop Cover Recycling (Yorks, Notts, Lincs) Martin Birdstall 07808 259 369

Cumbria Farm Plastic Recycling (resuming collection late ‘05) 07713 333 153

Emerald Isle Recycle (N Ireland) 028 9447 3583

Agriplass (Yorks, Co Durham, Northumberland and planning to operate nationally) David Brown 07773 426 821

Agricycle (Lincoln) Robert Moore 01673 878 215

What sort of things should I check before getting someone to collect my waste plastic?

Are they licensed by the EA?

Ask to see proof.

Have they already sorted out who will process the plastic?

If you’re paying an annual subscription up front, you’ll need to be sure that pick-ups are made regularly and reliably.

Ask how many times a year they will come to pick up.

Some may come once a year, others three or four times.

Check what degree of soil or silage contamination of the plastic they’re prepared to accept.

Either way, hanging up silage wrap or fertiliser bags on a big nail for several days and then giving them a good shake will help avoid the annoyance of a refusal.

What plastics will they accept?

All should collect silage wrap/bags/sheets but some can be sniffy about taking both inners and outers from 500kg/600kg/1t fertiliser bags.

Many will also take triple-washed spray containers and disinfectant drums.

Cost varies hugely according to operator and quantity.

Expect to pay £100-200/t for silage wraps and £150-400/t for fertiliser bags.

Because spray containers vary so much in size, some collection schemes charge by the acreage of crops.

Agriplass charges 70p-£1/acre for smaller farms, less per acre for larger ones. Paperwork.

You need to ensure that your collector gives you the consignment note to show how many bags or wraps he has taken.

Keep that somewhere safe.

I’ve got hundreds of tyres to get rid of.

What should I do with them?

The disposal options are very limited, especially since burying shredded tyres in landfillwill end in 2006.

Specialist agricultural recycling companies such as Solway Recycling (01387-730666) as well as general tyre collectors will – in theory – collect ex-farm tyres.

Prices charged by different operators are generally around 85p-£1/tyre.

Tyres can be wire-baled and used for engineering purposes (eg replacement for aggregate, dividers in barns, sheep shelters, silage clamps and temporary walls) – a process broadly approved by the EA.

However, the tyres must be your own and not brought in from other sites.

Where do you find a tyre baler? Shropshire company Thomas and Fontaine (01588-680661) is one of the first to enter the race.

It sells Secure Covers tyre-less silage nets and its 2500 customers each had an average of 2000-3000 redundant tyres and nowhere to send them.

The company’s answer was to import a US-made mobile tyre-baler that takes about 120 whole tyres at a time, compresses them and wraps wire around them.

The result is a bale that is 1.68m (5ft 6in) long, 1.37m (4ft 6in) wide and 0.76m (2ft 6in) deep and weighs between 1000kg and 1200kg.

The standard wire is galvanised, but the firm’s Gerard Thomas says stainless-steel wire or polypropylene rope could be specified if the bales were in permanent contact with silage effluent or slurry.

The company plans to start baling tyres this autumn and will charge £60/bale for farmers already using its covers and £84/bale for others.

The first unit will operate in Shropshire/Cheshire in October but the demand has been such that the firm expects to have five or six machines a working around the UK.

You can see one working at the Dairy Event on Sept 21/22.