agricultural waste

Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) outlines the importance of effective waste management

Conserving and protecting the world’s natural resources is vital, and effective waste management is an important step in reducing the amount of waste we produce.

The Scottish Government has a vision for the management of waste, where it is seen as a resource: waste is minimised, valuable resources are not disposed of in landfills and most waste is sorted, leaving only limited amounts to be treated. As more waste is prevented, less waste is sent to landfill, and more resources are reused, recycled and recovered.

This vision has meant that Scotland places the responsibility of managing waste on its creators. Business and industry all have a ‘duty of care’ to ensure that their waste is dealt with in line with the Scottish vision.

This duty of care extends to the agricultural industry, which is expected to manage its waste in the same way as the rest of Scottish business and industry. The organisation charged with the monitoring of Scottish waste management legislation is the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

Managing agricultural waste

Until relatively recently, agricultural waste was excluded from the regulations that controlled the management of household, commercial and industrial waste in Scotland.

However, the introduction of the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2005 1 means farmers now have a duty of care, like any other business, to dispose of waste safely with no harm to the environment. Some of the agricultural waste that is included in the legislation is:

– packaging;

– silage plastics;

– redundant machinery;

– tyres;

– netwrap;

– oils;

– batteries;

– old fencing;

– scrap metal;

– building waste.

Waste such as packaging, silage plastics, redundant machinery, tyres, oils and batteries can pose significant risks to the environment and human health, if not managed appropriately.

The waste ‘duty of care’ requires farmers and agricultural businesses to ensure that:

– all waste is stored and disposed of responsibly;

– waste is only handled or dealt with by individuals or businesses that are authorised to deal with it;

– a record is kept of all waste received or transferred through a system of signed ‘waste transfer notes’.

To help farmers and the wider agricultural industry understand and meet these requirements, SEPA has been working closely with partners, such as agricultural quality schemes, the National Farmers Union Scotland and the Scottish Government. The partners help inform the agricultural industry on all their obligations for the protection of the environment, and not just their responsibilities for waste management.

Support for the industry

The introduction of the 2005 waste regulations saw a need for a change in the way that farmers deal with waste. The changes included:

Burning of waste on farms – farmers in Scotland can only burn small amounts of plant tissue on their farm in the open by registering to do so. Controlled burning of other wastes using a drum incinerator is only allowed in certain circumstances, and the farmer must also register an exemption with SEPA first. Exemptions are considered where the farmer demonstrates that the activity will not pollute the environment or harm human health. This includes the burning of branch waste and brash.

Reuse, recycling and storage of farm wastes – brick, stones and plastics now all require to be reused or stored under registered exemptions or removed by a professional waste company. SEPA has provided the option to register for exemptions to the waste regulations online.

Tracking waste–the ‘duty of care’ associated with the waste regulations means that any waste not dealt with on the farm under waste exemptions must only be handled or dealt with by individuals or businesses that are authorised to deal with it. This means having documentation, known as waste transfer notes, between the farmer and the company dealing with the disposal of the waste. In addition, waste must only be passed to registered waste carriers.

Special waste

In Scotland, since July 20042, waste from agricultural premises that has hazardous properties and is listed as hazardous in the European Waste Catalogue3 has been controlled by the Special Waste Regulations. This definition includes agricultural waste, formerly not included under the Special Waste Regulations. Special waste that might be discarded in agricultural businesses includes:

– asbestos;

– waste oil and fuel oils such as diesel;

– certain veterinary medicines or infectious veterinary wastes;

– pesticides and herbicides;

– cleaning chemicals such as disinfectants and bleach;

– sheep dip.

Special waste has to be handled differently from other controlled wastes to ensure no damage to the environment.

1 the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2005

2 Special waste regulation, July 2004 amendments:

3 European Waste Catalogue:


Scottish Environment Protection Agency


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