Prevention of environmental pollution from agricultural activity: guidance

Code of good practice, giving practical advice to farmers and others on minimising pollution.

Section 12: waste management and minimisation


**1. Store waste securely, to prevent harm to the environment or to human health.

**2. Only burn waste "plant tissue" if the activity has first been registered with SEPA.

**3. Only burn waste oil in an appliance after prior authority has been obtained from SEPA.

4. Follow "The 4 Point Plan", which offers guidance on how to:

  • reduce dirty water around the farm

  • improve nutrient use

  • carry out a land risk assessment for slurry and manure

  • manage your water margins

5. Consider using the Defra/BOC Manual "Opportunities for saving money by reducing waste on your farm" to help identify potential cost and efficiency savings in minimising waste production.

6. Reduce, re-use and recycle waste, wherever possible, by segregating materials such as plastic bags and wrapping materials. Collect and store waste plastic straight after use and contact an approved plastic-recycling scheme if the plastic is deemed no longer useable on farm.

7. Recycle waste oil, lubricants, scrap metal and tyres.

8. Keep farm steadings and farmlands clean and tidy and free from unsightly litter from farming activity, especially farm plastics, containers and scrap.

9. M onitor water use carefully and reduce any leakage or wastage, especially where such leakage is contributing to levels of waste production (i.e. of stored slurry).

10. Use an irrigation scheduling service or direct measurements of soil status to avoid over and under application of irrigation water.


**1. Don't import anybody else's waste without proper authority from SEPA or the local authority.

**2. Don't give waste to a third party without:

  • ensuring that the person it is being given to is authorised by SEPA

  • providing that person with a written description of it

**3. Don't dispose of any waste, including scrap metal, plastic or other rubbish, on farmland or farm tips without proper authority from SEPA.

**4. Don't keep hold of waste or store it for more than one year if your intention is to dispose of the waste, otherwise a landfill permit is required.

**5. Don't keep hold of waste or store it for more than three years if you intend to recycle it, otherwise a landfill permit is required.

6. Burning of plastic is not recommended, because it can result in nuisance. Great care is required in using this disposal method.

7. Don't contaminate clean water with livestock slurry, animal manures or farmyard run-off.

8. Don't tolerate fly-tipping. Report such activities on the hotline - 0845 2304090.

9. Don't hesitate to get involved in any local recycling initiatives operated by Machinery Rings or other groups.


12.1 There are many opportunities for farmers to make financial savings and help the environment through efficient use of resources and improved waste management. Waste minimisation (the reduction of waste at source) should be fundamental to decisions on farm waste management and can reduce the risk of pollution from agricultural activities. A framework for cost-effective waste management, in order of priority, is set out as follows:

  • avoid

  • reduce

  • reuse

  • recycle

12.2 Large quantities of waste materials are generated by modern farming practices and their reuse, recycling, and disposal should be carefully planned to avoid or minimise the risk of causing environmental pollution.

12.3 The Defra/BOC Manual Opportunities for saving money by reducing waste on your farm is available to help identify potential cost and efficiency savings in waste management.

12.4 Where possible the purchase of materials used in farming operations should be restricted to those which can be reused/recycled after their initial use. Such materials include:

  • packaging and containers

  • plastic covers, rubber tyres and sheeting used in crop storage

  • worn out and used materials utilised in the servicing of agricultural machinery, e.g. oils

12.5 Don't hesitate to get involved in any local recycling initiatives operated by Machinery Rings or other groups.

12.6 When selecting materials or products, give preference to those which are biodegradable and which can be reused on the farm or disposed of either by a safe on-farm method or recycled through a waste disposal authority or contractor.

12.7 Following "The 4 Point Plan" can help maximise the value of manures and slurries produced on farms and will reduce the loss of nutrients from land.

What legislation must be complied with?

12.8 Do not dispose of scrap metal, plastic or other rubbish on farmland or farm tips unless a permit from SEPA has been obtained. The burning of plastics, packaging, tyres, waste oil or waste straw in the open can produce large amounts of polluting smoke and should be avoided. Residues from plastics and tyres in particular will contaminate the ground and cause pollution of groundwater and watercourses. Burning them at low temperatures typical of a bonfire or open drum will allow toxic compounds to escape into the atmosphere. Licensed waste disposers should preferably be employed in all cases.

12.9 Wastes are substances or materials which the holder discards, intends to discard, or is required to discard. Some wastes have hazardous properties (e.g. waste oil and asbestos cement sheeting) - these are called special wastes. Special wastes are subject to additional controls to reflect the higher risk associated with their handling, treatment and disposal. SEPA is waste regulator in Scotland and should be the first point of contact for queries about the regulations that apply to the storage, treatment or disposal of waste.

12.10 Anyone who imports, produces, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of controlled waste or, as a broker, has control of such waste, has a legal duty of care to ensure that:

  • they do not cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health

  • they prevent the escape of waste from their control or that of any other

  • wastes are only passed onto persons who are authorised to accept them

  • a written description of the waste (a transfer note) accompanies the handover of the waste to any third party to enable them to comply with the duty of care and take any such precautions that are necessary to ensure continued compliance with the duty of care

12.11 It is important to ensure that a person is authorised to accept waste. Persons who accept wastes for storage, treatment or disposal will either require an appropriate environmental permit or may qualify in certain circumstances for an exemption from permitting. In terms of transportation of waste, and with few exceptions, only registered waste carriers are authorised to transport waste. However, those who transport only agricultural, mine or quarry waste do not have to be registered waste carriers.

12.12 Particular legal requirements apply to the transfer and movement of special wastes, including 72 hours prior notification to SEPA of its removal from the farm and specific paperwork requirements. Contact SEPA for further details.

12.13 Disposing of waste on farmland or farm tips requires authorisation from SEPA, including the disposal of waste that has been generated on the farm. Strict technical and engineering standards are enforced in relation to the construction and operation of such sites. Contact SEPA for further details. In certain circumstances, the storage of waste falls within the controls of the Landfill (Scotland) Regulations 2003. Waste that is intended for disposal must not be stored for a period exceeding 12 months unless a landfill permit has been obtained from SEPA. Waste that is intended for recovery or recycling must not be stored for a period exceeding three years unless a permit had been obtained from SEPA.


12.14 Use packaging which is biodegradable or can be returned to the supplier for reuse. Where possible, minimise packaging by using bulk delivery and re-usable packaging.

12.15 Containers for agricultural chemicals and other persistent toxic or harmful substances should not be put to an alternative use. Guidance on the disposal of used pesticide containers is provided in the Code of Practice for the Safe Use of Pesticides on Farms and Holdings.

Plastic materials

12.16 Where possible, reuse or recycle plastic materials on the farm as this will help to reduce the quantity of waste which has to be disposed off. Care in the handling and use of plastics will increase its potential for reuse and/or recycling and its useful life expectancy. Where plastic material is not reusable for its original purpose, all opportunities should be sought to reuse or recycle it for other applications.

12.17 Materials to be recycled should be as clean as possible and free from soil. Different types of material should be kept separately and the material stored in a safe place ready for collection.

12.18 Many plastic crop covers are biodegradable but do not degrade sufficiently well to avoid a litter problem. Be aware that wind blown plastic can accumulate in hedges and on riverbanks, which is unsightly and potentially harmful.

Waste oil

12.19 Waste lubrication and hydraulic oils are produced in significant quantities from the servicing of agricultural machinery. Where waste oil cannot be used on the farm, for example to fuel a heater, it should be taken to a suitable licensed disposal point. Waste oil must never be disposed of to a soakaway or other farm waste system. Waste oil on farms can only be burned in appliances authorised by SEPA for this purpose. Farmers should contact SEPA regarding the legal requirements.

12.20 The use of waste oil for the purposes of starting bonfires should be avoided.

12.21 The drainage system from vehicle wash areas should be provided with a suitable oil interceptor which will require cleaning at regular intervals. The drainage should discharge into a collection tank. SEPA should be contacted for guidance on the options available for disposal.


12.22 The disposal of scrap is banned under the Landfill (Scotland) Regulations 2003 except in accordance with a permit from SEPA or under an exemption from the requirement to hold a permit. Such dumping causes potential environmental hazards which can also pose a threat to human health and animal welfare. Dumped materials can attract vermin and are unsightly.

Waste fertiliser, feed and crop residues

12.23 Purchased fertiliser can account for up to 60% of variable costs in crop production. Considerable savings can be made by reducing storage losses from damp or split bags, improved spreadability by spreader calibration and matching application to crop requirements using soil analysis and crop growth monitoring.

12.24 Better design and calibration of feeder systems can considerably reduce feed waste whilst reformulation of rations can improve efficiency.

12.25 Crop losses at harvest, grading and storage range between 5 and 25% of total production. Improvements in harvesting, storage, marketing and recycling of crop residues can result in significant cost savings. Close attention to vermin control will also reduce crop losses and minimise risks to human and animal health.

Efficient water use

12.26 It is important to minimise losses from leakage, contamination or misuse of water. Water use should be monitored carefully and opportunities for more efficient use considered as well as reducing the volume of mains or abstracted water used.

12.27 Irrigation is a high consumer of clean water in dry seasons. Ponds for the retention of rainfall should be considered on these farms. Optimise use of irrigation water by monitoring weather forecasts, soil moisture deficits and crop growth stage using irrigation scheduling techniques.

12.28 Clean water from roofs should be kept separate from dirty yard water and may be used for irrigation and washing down. By doing so you will also be reducing the volume of slurry to be collected and applied to land.

12.29 Use water troughs gravity-fed from adjacent watercourses and in-house bite-type or nipple drinkers if practicable.

12.30 Protect pipes from freezing and fracturing resulting in leakage and unnecessary losses.

Energy use

12.31 If appropriate consider the installation of low-energy lamps, smaller fluorescent tubes, thermostats and insulation. Potential energy savings are in the order of 10%.

12.32 Independent lighting systems for sections of large buildings and reminder notices to switch-off lights and equipment are low-cost solutions.

12.33 In new buildings, investment in efficient heating/cooling and ventilation system will result in a large on-going reduction in energy use.

12.34 Advice on more efficient energy use can be obtained by calling the Scottish Energy Efficiency Office helpline on Freephone 0800 585794.


12.35 Fly-tipping is a criminal offence and any such activity should be reported to the local authority, SEPA or the police. These bodies are empowered to prepare reports to Procurators Fiscal so that proceedings can be instigated against perpetrators, and may themselves issue fixed penalty notices to fly-tippers. The Scottish Executive funds Keep Scotland Beautiful to provide advice and training on how to use existing legislation against fly-tippers. That organisation chairs the Scottish Flytipping Forum, on which NFU Scotland is represented. A national Stop Line has also been set up (08452 30 40 90), to provide a single point of contact for anyone who witnesses flytipping or who wishes to inform the authorities of a site that needs cleared.

Imported waste

12.36 Farmers are increasingly being approached to import solid wastes normally destined for landfill sites. Since farm tips are now covered by the Landfill (Scotland) Regulations 2003, this operation may be illegal and you should always consult SEPA beforehand. Some wastes, however, may be imported for use on the farm in certain circumstances under exemptions from waste management licensing controls. Some exemptions must be registered with SEPA. Again you should contact your local SEPA office for more information on this prior to accepting any such waste.

Spent rodenticide or other pesticide baits

12.37 Disposal of spent rodenticide or other pesticide baits and carcasses should be in accordance with the requirements specified on the product label.

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