The UK is facing legal proceedings from the European Commission over its failure to regulate agricultural waste. In England, Ministers have been stalling on the issue for more than a decade. To develop an implementation strategy, a stakeholder forum was set up in 2002, but the deadline continues to slip (ENDS Report 347, p 16 ).
By contrast, Scotland has already applied legislation to outlaw farm dumps (ENDS Report 342, p 50 ), and has implemented a beefed up regime for regulating land spreading operations on agricultural land (ENDS Report 339, pp 42-43 ).
The latest initiative from the Scottish Executive is a consultation paper containing draft regulations that will revise the definition of waste so as to include waste from agricultural premises and non-mineral wastes from mines and quarries. It intends to introduce the regulations "at the earliest opportunity".
The regulations will also make it a legal requirement for people transporting waste from farms and non-mineral waste from quarries and mines to be registered carriers.
Slurries and manures will fall under waste regulation controls under certain circumstances. Where a farmer uses manure or slurry from his own farm as a fertiliser or soil conditioner, it will not be deemed a "waste" operation - because there is no intent to discard.
However, where a farmer uses manure or slurry in quantities which exceed the requirements for agricultural land - and where the manure/slurry is transferred away from the farm - then it is a waste.
Land spreading operations already benefit from an exemption from full-blown waste management licensing requirements, as do various other farm-related activities including certain forms of waste burning.
The Executive is seeking proposals for other suitable exemptions, which, in the case of spreading, would have to be demonstrably beneficial to agriculture or ecologically improving.
Meanwhile, the consultation paper also proposes changes to make householders responsible for their waste.
A new offence would be introduced, through an amendment to the Environmental Protection Act 1990, to prevent householders treating, keeping or disposing of their waste in an environmentally harmful way.
The Executive also proposes widening the waste management "duty of care" so as to require householders to take care to hand over their wastes only to persons who are properly authorised.
However, there would be no requirement for householders to draw up transfer notes, as required in the existing duty of care regime applying to businesses.