Find out the ingredients before you recycle waste
By Liz Mann
INSIST on an accurate and up-to-date list of ingredients if you are considering recycling waste by-products on to your farm. Without that information you could fall foul of pollution regulations.
Sewage sludge, paper waste and brewery and sweet factory effluent are among by-products queuing up as potential agricultural manures, as legislation and taxation force manufacturers to switch from dumping to recycling.
That was the message Roger Benfield agronomist for waste recycling company England Environmental had for farmers at the annual conference of the mid and east Kent wheat clubs at Ashford. Waste products must be properly screened to provide growers with details of nutrient levels, heavy metal content, pH and organic matter levels, he advised.
"We can only legally spread industrial wastes and effluents on to farmland if they are of agricultural benefit and have no adverse environmental effect.
"But obtaining comprehensive and up-to-date information about the product can be a nightmare. We cannot prevent manufacturers varying their inputs and processes and as a result producing variable waste," admitted Mr Benfield. That variation, which could cause tremendous damage to the land, can be missed by the statutory six-month sampling, he explained.
"We have just switched to more regular sampling in our paper waste recycling programme, with additional random testing of individual batches."
Persuading farmers to use waste on their land depends on providing a guaranteed product, Bill Griffiths of Southern Water Services Recycling Group agreed.
"We recognise that farmers are not a disposal outlet, but are our customers. We must provide a consistent quality product that they are willing to use. We are investing £250m in 16 sludge treatment centres across the south east, equipped to deal with local conditions."
While waste will vary between centres, monthly monitoring shows little variation in nutrient levels within a centre, he said. However, growers using sludge by-products, which cost about £1.50/t spread, only receive a statement estimating nutrient availability in the first year. *
• Demand details of what is in waste spread on your farm.
• Industrial processes can vary.
• Six-month checks may not be enough.