An estimated 90 million tonnes of manure and slurry, between 3-4 million tonnes of sewage sludge and further 6-7 million tonnes of 'industrial wastes' like paper sludges, composts, and food processing wastes are applied to land each year. Some of these are 'waste' and some like sewage sludge and manure and slurry are not waste in the majority of cases.
Using wastes as a fertiliser or to improve the soil
Wastes can be spread on land for many reasons. For example, wastes like compost, digestate and food processing wastes can reduce the requirement for manufactured fertilisers. Other wastes can be used to improve the soil by increasing the organic matter content and the soil structure.
Although the use of waste on land can provide significant benefits, there can be severe consequences for the food chain, soil health, watercourses, groundwater and to sensitive habitats and species if it is done incorrectly.
If you are using waste as a soil improver or fertiliser you must spread it either in accordance with a registered waste exemption or in accordance with an environmental permit.
Exemptions for spreading waste on land
Activities involving the storage, recycling or disposal of waste generally require an Environmental Permit. However, some waste activities pose less of a risk to the environment and human health so are exempt from requiring an environmental permit. There is an exemption for spreading certain types of waste on agricultural land.
New regulations were introduced on 6 April 2010 which changed the exemptions system. Farmers who registered a paragraph 7 exemption for spreading agricultural waste on agricultural land have until 1 October 2013 to register under the new system.
If you have registered a land spreading exemption under paragraph 7, to spread non-agricultural wastes for example, paper sludges on your land you will have until 1 October 2012 to register under the new system or obtain an environmental permit.
Standard rules permit and bespoke permit for spreading waste on land
Many of the waste types traditionally spread on agricultural land under paragraph 7, for example; paper sludges, food processing sludges are not included in the new U10 exemption. These wastes must now be spread under a permit.
Spreading manures and slurries on your land as fertiliser
Manure and slurry have been used as fertiliser on farmland for many years and are not waste when used in this way, however they can cause pollution if they are not stored and spread carefully. The storage and spreading of Manures and slurries can also be subject to other controls such as the Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations (NVZs) and the Silage Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil Regulations (SSAFO).
Spreading sewage sludge or biosolids on your land as fertiliser
Sewage sludge has been used as a fertiliser on farmland for many years and is not waste when tested, supplied and used in accordance with the Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations.