Waste plastic has hit the headlines over the last year or so but it has been long recognised as an issue on farms.
In 2006, the Waste Management Regulations banned the burning or burying of farm waste, including plastic and cardboard, which means that farmers have a legal duty to send waste off-farm, either for recycling or to a landfill site.
There are many everyday items on farm that can easily be recycled to help reduce the single-use burden but different types of plastic have to be separated according to their specific characteristics which define what their future use may be.
For example black silage wrap is generally recycled in to hard plastic garden furniture while clear plastics have more versatile uses, hence the need for separating the different types of plastic.
In response to the introduction of the 2006 regulations, a number of farm waste recycling schemes were set up across the country and many farmers have subscribed to these as the primary means of disposing of their plastic waste.
The 2006 regulations are taken seriously by farmers, not only because the Environment Agency can and will enforce them, but also because under farm assurance schemes, to which many farmers belong, farmers need to keep records of the legal disposal of plastic. This means evidence needs to be provided showing that plastic has been given to an authorised person and a Waste Transfer note has been provided to demonstrate lawful disposal.
Once collected most of the plastic is washed, shredded and turned into pellets for manufacturing into new products such as bin liners, garden furniture, car body parts, fencing materials, wheelie bins or even traffic cones.
It is difficult to reduce the use of plastics on farm because so many farm products are delivered in plastic packaging of one form or another. However, farmers may be able reduce plastic waste by taking the delivery of feed in bulk rather than in individual bags for example. In addition last week I noticed that a new silage bale wrap is being marketed which is clear rather than black and one of the advantages of this is that the waste plastic can be recycled in to more versatile products which will make it more “valuable” as a waste product which should reduce the costs of disposal.
Some other farm waste such as grease cartridges, aerosols, filters, wormer tubes, udder wipes, latex gloves, dry cow tubes and foils from spray cans etc have to be treated separately as Hazardous Waste. Many of the recycling companies will accept these items also but they need to be separately sorted and appropriately bagged because the rules in relation to such waste products are far more complicated.
So, although the global scale of the problem associated with plastic waste may have only come to the attention of the public relatively recently, farmers have in fact been sorting, recycling or legally disposing of such waste for well over a decade.
For further information, contact James Stephen, Partner (email@example.com / 01865 404406), or your local Carter Jonas office.