Farmers warned over illegal waste wood scam

Farmers and landowners are being warned about the sham disposal of waste wood on land.

The Environment Agency (EA) is reporting a number of incidents in recent months where low-grade and poor-quality waste has been accepted and deposited onto land.

Some businesses and individuals in the waste industry have targeted farmers and landowners by tempting them to accept waste wood for field entrances, livestock yards, animal bedding, or even heavy, wet land as a “soil improver”.

See also: Lincolnshire waste scam leaves farmers with huge clean-up bill

Social media sites, adverts in farming magazines and direct contact are common methods used to attract waste wood buyers.

One farmer recently agreed to be paid £50/load (22t in a load) to accept low-grade waste woodchip at one site in the country.

Wood smoking

At times, landowners take the low-grade wood chip for free, or sometimes they are given con stories and one monthly payment of several thousand pounds. Then they receive nothing else and have to pay £10,000-£100,000 to remove the waste wood to legitimate treatment or disposal sites.

The EA says waste wood is often “poor-quality manufactured, laminated, treated and painted wood”.

The wood can contain heavy metals from timber preservatives, copper, chrome or arsenic, creosote, halogenated compound or metal pigment containing treatments, paints, coatings and preservatives.

Sometimes it contains glass, nails or screws and is from demolished buildings that contain asbestos.

Wood chip with bits of glass

Peter Stark, an EA senior environment officer, said: “Do you really want to contaminate your land with this waste and these substances? Allow your livestock to walk over or bed down in this type of material?

“It’s sham disposal of waste wood if you peel back the layers. It leaves an environmental liability for innocent victims and big bills to transport and remove the waste to an authorised disposal site.”

Farmers could potentially be committing an offence under environmental regulations and have a fire risk if large heaps of chipped and shredded waste wood are stored on land and self-combust or burst into flames, Mr Stark warned.

In addition, insurance policies often do not cover poor business ventures.

Don’t become a victim of waste wood crime

  • Take 30 minutes to ask a few questions if you are approached, get the individuals details (name, address and date of birth), vehicle registration.
  • Ask where the waste is coming from (address, permit number, waste carriers registration), inform them you will be contacting the Environment Agency or call the agency while they are there.
  • Don’t agree to accept any waste, material, containers or enter a business agreement until you have carried out some checks and had a cooling-off period to fully consider the offer.
  • Good-quality waste wood can be useful as a mulch, for farm livestock areas, crew yards, equestrian exercise areas or ménage areas. There is a specific waste exemption that can be registered, it’s free to register and last for three years, but has specific rules. 

Firemen with burning wood pile

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