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Recycle Week 2021 Urges Farmers to ‘Step It Up’

Recycle Week 2021 is underway, and farmers and crofters can do their bit to ‘Step it Up’ writes NFU Scotland’s Environmental Resources Policy Manager Sarah Cowie.

Recycle Week, running from Monday 20 September to Sunday 26 September, is an annual week of action which celebrates and encourages recycling across the country. 



This year’s theme encourages everyone to ‘Step it Up’ when it comes to recycling, recognising that while most of us already take action to dispose of waste responsibly, there is still much more we can all do to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and create a more circular economy. 

This does not only apply to individual households. This Recycle Week, farming businesses are being encouraged to refamiliarise themselves with the rules around farm waste disposal, and identify how they can ‘Step it Up’ when it comes to recycling to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint and demonstrate farmers and crofters’ commitment to tackling climate change. 

Firstly, farmers and crofters are encouraged to reduce, reuse and recycle to minimise the waste plastic use on farm. Where waste is generated, there are a number of options farmers can use for disposal. Some local authorities take agricultural waste as part of their commercial waste collection service, and others may take agricultural plastic waste at their recycling centres. Members are encouraged to get in touch with their local authorities directly to discuss the options available. 

If you transport your own waste to a local collection centre, you must be registered as a Professional Collector and Transporter of Waste (PCTW). Registration is free and can be done here https://www.sepa.org.uk/media/102039/registration-as-a-professional-collector-or-transporter-of-controlled-waste.pdf 

There are also a number of specialist recycling services operating throughout Scotland. Farmers and crofters will have to contact service providers and find out what’s available. 

NFUS encourages working together with other farm businesses in your area to consider what can be done collectively to make it easier and cheaper for waste to be collected. It may be that a central collection point can be established, such as those already established at Ayr and St Boswells auction marts, which allows farmers to bring their waste to a centralised location on a specific day. Speak to other farmers in your area, or to your Regional Manager who may be able to assist further. 

When organising your waste for disposal, it’s important waste is separated by type. Recycling providers are unlikely to want to collect undifferentiated waste because it increases costs for them to separate into different waste streams. Undifferentiated waste can potentially end up going to landfill, which can lead to increased costs that will ultimately be borne by the farmer. 

Another general rule is that the cleaner the plastic, the better, as clean plastic is much easier and cheaper to recycle. Different companies will have different rules on contamination, but make sure you don’t contaminate collectible waste with items such as batteries, gloves, or medicine waste. 

Another key point to remember is if collection is by weight, and wet material will cost more to dispose of. 

More information on recycling farm plastics and how you can minimise the environmental impacts of your farm business is available at the Zero Waste Scotland website https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/organics/farm-plastic-recycling and at the SEPA website https://www.sepa.org.uk/regulations/waste/agricultural-waste/burning-on-farm-waste/

Author: Sarah Cowie

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About The Author

Sarah Cowie

Sarah Cowie graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2012 and started her career at Scottish Enterprise, where she held roles in renewable energy and IP development. Following this she joined political monitoring company Newsdirect, where she was responsible for a wide range of clients in the environmental and agricultural sector. She joined NFU Scotland in 2021 as environmental resources policy manager and is responsible for the implementation and content of environmental regulation and legislation including Nitrate Vulnerable Zones, pollution prevention and control, waste, flooding, air quality and biodiversity.

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