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Environment and Land Use Chairman's Blog - 20 April 2020

It has been over a year now since the ban on the burning of farm waste came into place with farmers expected to find other means of disposal, primarily through recycling, writes Environment and Land Use (ELU) Chairman Angus Macfadyen.  

There had actually been a ban on the burning of plastics on farms across the UK for several years, but the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) continued to allow burning for those that applied for an exemption to the waste management licencing regulations.  SEPA did this in recognition of the difficulties faced by some in not always having access to an economical means of disposal.  However, to bring Scotland into line with the other parts of the UK, the Scottish Government decided that SEPA should move to enforce the full ban on the incineration of farm plastics from 1 January 2019.

Unfortunately, that did not mean that an economic means of disposal was available and NFUS continues to support members who are facing challenges with the affordable uplift of farm waste. NFU Scotland hosted a meeting of plastic collectors and recyclers in late February to discuss the pressing issues faced by our members and how we can work collaboratively to ease the strain this is putting on businesses.

As Chair of NFU Scotland’s Environment and Land Use (ELU) Committee, I am very aware of the variety of issues faced across the breadth of Scotland. On our own farm there is not easy access to local recycling facilities. We made the decision to invest in two Solway recycling bins to recycle our bale wrap, fertiliser bags and plastic containers. This can seem like a significant cost but I have found it to be well worth the cost for what it has allowed for in tidiness and ease of sorting plastics, and for ensuring collection off the farm.

The budget announcement on the 11 March confirmed that the government will introduce a new Plastic Packaging Tax from April 2022 to incentivise the use of recycled plastic in packaging.

  • The Budget sets the rate at £200 per tonne of plastic packaging that contains less than 30 per cent recycled plastic.
  • This will apply to the production and importation of plastic packaging. The government will keep the level of the rate and threshold under review to ensure that the tax remains effective in increasing the use of recycled plastic. 
  • The government will also extend the scope of the tax to the importation of filled plastic packaging and apply a minimum threshold of 10 tonnes of plastic packaging to ensure the smallest businesses are not disproportionately impacted. 
  • It is NFUS current understanding that this does not apply to plastic film (e.g. silage wrap) as this is deemed part of the product.


This tax is a starting point for members as it has the potential to help create a stronger demand in the market for recycled plastics which is currently hindering the trade at present and causing members significant issues in relation to both cost and collection services. NFU Scotland will continue to engage with industry stakeholders and government as this progresses.  

For more support and information visit - https://www.nfus.org.uk/policy/environment-and-land-use/farm-waste.aspx

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