UK Government

Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs: Farm waste to be greener under new proposals

Press Release   •   Dec 18, 2009 10:42 GMT

A new scheme to reduce the amount of non-packaging agricultural plastics (NPAP) such as silage wrap and crop covers going to landfill has been proposed by Defra, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly Government in a consultation published today.

Every year around 83,000 tonnes of waste NPAP is generated on farms in Britain.  Until legislation was introduced in 2006 around 80 per cent of this waste was disposed of by uncontrolled burning or burying on farmland which created environmental hazards.  As the majority of waste NPAP from farms now ends up in landfill, Government has been working with affected industries looking at ways of dealing with these materials in a more sustainable way.

The consultation seeks views on whether the industry as a whole agrees that a recycling system is still needed, and if so it proposes the introduction of either on-farm collection, or collection points for NPAP which would be free at the point of use for farmers.  Producers of NPAP products, (manufacturers and importers), would be required to either join or set up a scheme for the collection and recycling of this waste.

Under the proposals a target would be set to recycle 80 per cent of waste NPAP within four years – currently only around 20 per cent is recycled.

Environment Minister Dan Norris said:

“Many farmers have been calling for a system like this for many years and I am pleased that we are now able to put forward detailed options.  Every industry has a responsibility to minimise their environmental impact and our proposals would help deal with this type of waste in a much more sustainable way.”

Increasing the amount of this plastic that is recycled instead of being sent to landfill would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of fossil fuels being used to make virgin products.

Notes to editors

1.    The consultation and more information on non-packaging agricultural waste plastics can be found at

  • Disposal of agricultural waste, including plastics, is controlled under the Agricultural Waste Regulations (AWR) 2006.
  • The AWR were introduced to bring the rules applying to agricultural waste into line with those applying to other sectors and led to the burying and burning of farm plastic waste being banned under most circumstances.
  • There are two main types of waste agricultural plastic.  Plastic packaging products are covered by the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007, and include fertiliser sacks, animal feed sacks and tubs, and seed bags.  Waste non-packaging agricultural plastic products typically include silage bale wrap, crop cover, mulch films, bale twine, fleece plant jacket, greenhouse (tunnel) film, and t.  Responsibility for the disposal of this is generally currently the responsibility of the end user, usually the farmer.  Under the proposals published today, the manufacturers and producers would have responsibilities under the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

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