Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Sustainable waste management for farmers

Monday, August 20, 2018

As a farmer, you have a legal responsibility to ensure that you produce, store, transport and dispose of controlled waste without harming the environment (it is inevitable that all farm businesses produce waste and most types of business waste are classed as controlled).

This is called your duty of care. But do you know what you must do to comply with your duty of care? How you should segregate and store your waste safely, who can deal with your waste, and the records you must keep?

The issue of waste will vary with every farm, so it is important you are aware of what applies to you and how to manage the waste produced from your farm activities through sustainable waste management.

When we talk about waste, this does not include slurry or manure if it is used for agricultural purposes. This has its own specific guidelines that fall outside of waste management. When we refer to waste on a farm, it generally refers to anything that you discard, intend to discard or are required to discard, so covers a wide range of materials, often with very specific duties of care.

A lot of the duty of care is responsible action, and most farmers comply by implementing best practice. However, as a general principle, apply the waste hierarchy – prevent waste, re-use, recycle, recover other value (e.g. energy), dispose.


You must store waste safely and prevent liquid wastes and pollutants from escaping into drains, watercourses, waterways or surrounding ground. Store waste on impermeable surfaces within a secondary containment system. Ideally this should be a bund which is large enough to hold the leaked contents of the storage containers.

Most farms have diesel, oil and agrichemicals – all of which require correct storage to prevent environmental harm.


By reusing a product, it is no longer classed as waste and farmers have always been masters of improvisation in terms of waste (think of bale twine!) Drums often become buckets and even tractor seats become stools. This is a cost effective and environmentally friendly way of reducing waste on a farm.


Segregate key recyclates for collection (metals, plastics, glass,paper and card). Use an authorised waste carrier to transport waste off site to a recycling centre or a disposal site. If they transport their own waste they must be registered as a Professional Collector or Transporter of Waste (free SEPA registration).

Recover other value

There are farms that use waste to produce energy and this would be classed as recovering another value – and is a very effective way of deadling with farm waste. However this can require huge capital expenditure and infrastructure considerations so is not common place.


This leaves us with the final element – dispose.

Special waste (waste with hazardous properties such as fluorescent tubes, used oil, asbestos roofing, chemicals, pesticides) is one of the most frequent forms of waste on farms and must be segregated and stored separately. Paperwork is in the form of “consignment notes” – and needs to be kept for three years.

If you are a livestock farmer, you inevitably have deadstock - understand the rules covering the disposal of animal carcasses and other products of animal origin not intended for human consumption.

It is illegal to bury waste, and in most cases to burn waste (it is possible to burn plant material under an exemption from SEPA) and it’s also illegal to ignore the requirements of the Duty of Care. So do your research, visit our website and seek advice if necessary to ensure you are implementing all the requirements to manage your farm waste responsibility, legally and effectively.

For more tips on sustainable waste management for farmers and to understand how to manage waste with as little impact on the environment as possible, visit our waste management section.

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