EA warning about possible contamination of animal bedding with hazardous materials

Bedding buyers beware

During routine inspections the EA have discovered instances where waste materials, such as plasterboard and wood contaminated with plastics, metals and other hazardous material have been used as animal bedding on farms. This may be harmful to livestock, the environment, is illegal and can be very expensive to clean up.

Some waste materials may be suitable and economically viable options for animal bedding, provided the correct exemption has been registered. The exemption that covers this activity is U8 – Use of waste for a specified purpose. However, some farmers may be unknowingly allowing inappropriate and contaminated materials on to their farms and putting themselves and their livestock at risk.

Unfortunately some suppliers of bedding materials have been found to be cutting corners and deliberately misleading farmers, providing unsuitable waste materials and in some cases delivering quantities in excess of what was ordered as a method of disposing of these materials cheaply.

Two waste types are of particular concern:

Waste Wood

waste wood

Virgin timber is not waste wood. Virgin timber includes trees and branches, shavings and sawdust, removed during forestry activities. It also includes virgin timber shavings and off-cuts produced by sawmills, wood-working or timber product manufacture before it is subject to treatment or use. Virgin timber products such as sawdust and shavings are suitable for livestock bedding.

Waste wood is treated or untreated wood that has been used for any purpose. It includes associated residues such as off-cuts, shavings, chippings and sawdust. Waste timber products such as sawdust and shavings may be suitable for livestock bedding. Where virgin wood is mixed with waste wood such as fence posts, pallets, construction boarding or other waste, the mixed load is classified as waste.

Waste wood is graded from A to D based on its level of contamination. Only Grade A (untreated clean) waste wood is suitable for use as animal bedding, it must be visibly clean and non-hazardous. Please be aware that some wood treatments may not be obvious and visible. Grade A waste wood can be used as animal bedding under a U8 exemption.

Waste Plasterboard

waste plasterboard

Waste plasterboard cannot be used in animal bedding, however the recovered backing paper from plasterboard is a suitable component of bedding if it is largely uncontaminated with gypsum. The recovered paper should be free of any visible lumps or granules of gypsum. The use of recovered paper in animal bedding is allowed under a U8 exemption.

Reduce the risk

You should be present during the delivery of waste materials to your farm.  Ensure you make simple checks on whether the waste is to the same specification as you agreed and that it is free from contaminants.  Wrongly described waste, contaminated waste or waste that is not allowed under a  U8 exemption should be rejected.

If you suspect that you have unknowingly accepted misclassified waste, isolate the waste and report all the details to the Environment Agency.

Please note: If you want to spread waste bedding on your land you must treat it first under either a T23, T24 or T25 exemption.  Once treated, the waste can be spread on land under a U10 or U11 exemption