Farmers are being urged to ensure contaminated plastic waste is disposed of legally following an increase in seizures at shipping ports.
The Environment Agency says it has intercepted numerous illegal shipments of waste – including silage wrap – which were destined for countries around the world. Waste cannot be exported without special permission.
In order to legally export contaminated agricultural plastic waste, UK farm businesses must obtain prior consent from both the source country and its destination, alongside all countries through which it travels.
The rules cover use a wide range of plastic products, such as plastic sheeting and films, as well as plastic pots and trays, and plastic packaging waste such as fertiliser bags or compost bags.
Duty of care
Farmers may keep plastic waste for up to 12 months before removal from the farm, storing different types separately such as dirty plastic films and plastic pesticide containers.
NFU environment policy adviser Philippa Arnold said: “We have a legal duty of care when disposing of our waste, so don’t be afraid to ask where the waste is going or ask for evidence that the waste company is authorised to store or treat it.”
The NFU is reminding its members to check the Environment Agency website to ensure their plastic waste collector is a registered waste carrier – and to obtain a waste transfer note with an accurate description of the waste as proof of collection.
Farmers should seek additional guidance on the handling, segregation and storage of bulky or soiled plastic wraps, sheeting and films before they are removed from the farm. Doing so can improve collection and recycling.
Options for recycling agricultural non-packaging plastic are more limited because they are not subject to such legislation and because the plastics are difficult to recycle due to contamination.
Improving availability of facilities and minimising costs for recycling or disposal of non-packaging plastics therefore needs to be addressed says the NFU.