ARCHIVE: Farm waste and recycling: Composting
Most farm composts are made up of green waste, such as hedge trimmings and tree prunings, or livestock manures and slurries. It can be used as a soil conditioner to improve soil structure and enhance its biological activity.
The use of compost reduces harmful emissions of greenhouse gas methane from landfills and returns organic matter to the soil.
Composting is classified as a waste recovery operation under the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) and is regulated by the Environment Agency (EA). The regulations cover:
- composting on-farm waste (from your own farm)
- composting off-farm waste (sourced from other farms)
- giving/receiving waste for composting
- storing/managing waste for composting
- municipal waste
Composting on-farm waste
If you plan to compost livestock manures, slurries or green waste that come from your own farm you need to register for a free EA Waste Licence Exemption.
For further details on registering for an exempt activity, call the EA agricultural waste customer contact centre on 0845 603 3113 .
Composting off-farm waste
If you are thinking about starting a business which involves composting off-farm waste you will need an EA Waste Management Licence or a Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Permit.
If you choose this option:
- you will have to pay an application fee, and an annual subsistence fee
- you may need planning permission from your local authority
- you will need to prove your technical competence
Giving or receiving waste for composting
If you let someone else take your waste for composting:
- check the person can take it – ask them to produce evidence that they are authorised to carry waste, if they can’t do this, don’t give them your waste
- ensure the waste goes to a proper site – licensed or exempt
- give the person a transfer note – this must include a description of the waste and be signed by both of you. Keep copies of your transfer notes for a minimum of two years
If you take waste from someone else for composting on your farm:
- make sure the law allows you to take it, by confirming with the EA on 08708 506 506
- check the person giving the waste to you describes it in writing
- ensure both parties have filled in and signed a transfer note
The EA’s leaflet Waste – you can handle it (PDF document, 67K) sets out the rules on giving or receiving waste, including waste for composting. Defra’s leaflet, Waste – Duty of Care (PDF document, 216K) also contains relevant information. Free paper copies of the leaflet can be ordered from Defra Publications, telephone 08459 556 000.
Storing and managing waste for composting
The Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations state that compost material has to be stored securely. It must be kept safe against accidental spilling or leaking and you should not allow liquids to escape into watercourses.
Stored liquid waste should be kept in a sealed container for recycling or disposal. For more information, see Defra’s Waste Management, The Duty of Care, A Code of Practice (PDF document, 238K).
Composting farmyard manures
Advice on composting farmyard manures can be found in the EA’s Best Farming Practices: Profiting from a good environment – part one (PDF document, 1082K). Printed copies of the free leaflet can be ordered by telephoning the EA on 08708 506 506.
Technical notes called ‘The Composting of Separated Animal Wastes’ have been produced by the Farm Energy Centre. The notes cost £1.50 (including postage). An order form can be downloaded from the Farm Energy Centre website or call 024 7669 6512 to request a paper copy.
Specific guidelines on the rules applying to green waste taken from local authority parks and gardens for composting are available in Defra’s recycling and waste section.
If the municipal waste includes kitchen waste it will need to go to an approved composting plant. Catering waste and animal by-products cannot be brought onto a premises where livestock are kept. Further details can be found in the composting guidance leaflet on treatment of animal by-products and catering waste.
- Recycling and waste section
- Waste – 'Duty of Care' leaflet (PDF document, 216K)
- Waste Management, Duty of Care, Code of Practice' (PDF document, 238K)
- Environment Agency
- Complex Waste Exemptions
- Waste – you can handle it (PDF document, 67K)
- Best Farming Practices
- Farm Energy Centre
- Defra helpline – 08459 335 577 (local call rate)
- Environment Agency customer contact centre – 08708 506 506
Page last modified: 1 July 2006
Page published: 1 July 2006