Take action to reduce waste and increase efficiency

Thursday, 23 September 2021

The Environment Agency's Key Actions for Farmers guide presents a set actions that farmers can take to manage their environmental impact.

The guide collates existing regulatory requirements (gov.uk) and good practice (e.g. LEAF, AHDB, NFU) covering three themes:

  1. Manage resources sustainably (reduce, re-use and then recycle).
  2. Manage waste well (clean, separate and store securely for collection by an EA-registered waste carrier).
  3. Protect livelihoods (soil, water, livestock).

Based on the key actions, a two-page document focused on plastic waste management has also been produced with Westcountry Rivers Trust. It includes steps to success and top tips for storing waste properly.

Why waste should be managed properly

Since the Blue Planet II documentary, there has been increasing awareness of the amount of plastic we use and images of plastic waste littering our land, rivers and seas.

While the percentage of plastic waste generated from farming is small compared with household and other business waste, it matters because farms are generally in rural locations and close to watercourses.

With 71% of land in the UK dedicated to agriculture and reports to the Environment Agency of poor compliance, illegal burning and burying of waste, it is clear that agricultural plastics are a concern.

Farm plastic, when not stored and disposed of properly, becomes a problem. It escapes into the environment, enters rivers, has the potential to affect soil health, becomes a risk to livestock and wildlife and is a visible indicator as to how a farm is managed.

Not only is there is a legal duty of care to securely store waste and ensure it ends up in the right place, it is also the right thing to do.

If you are part of a farm assurance or stewardship scheme, or plan to be part of one, a key requirement is that you can prove legal compliance to all waste disposal.

Keeping waste tidy and stored securely is one of the ways to discourage fly-tipping on your land.

While the challenges are wide ranging, we all have a responsibility to make plastic pollution a thing of the past.

Useful links

Key actions for farmers: Resource efficiency and waste

Access more resources relating to the environment

Water regulations for farmers

Teaching packs for agricultural colleges

Resources for Young Farmers' Clubs