Scottish parliament committee expresses ‘surprise and concern’ over current organic waste to land laws
Findings that current Scottish law permits the spreading of animal blood and guts, and other untreated organic waste, onto land without consideration for health or the environment has shocked a parliamentary committee.
The Scottish Transport and Environment Committee, instructed by the Executive to investigate the issue, have published a report recommending a series of changes to present legislation on the spreading of organic waste to land. Many of these suggested changes reiterate recommendations made by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in its Strategic Review of Organic Waste Spread on Land in 1998.
Although properly treated organic waste can be of agricultural and ecological benefit when spread to land, SEPA’s report stated that the spreading of organic waste to land in Scotland was “inadequate and inconsistent” almost four years ago, since then no subsequent change has been made to the law.
Currently 250 tonnes of waste per annum can be applied per hectare of land in Scotland, in the past SEPA have raised concerns over health due to pathogenic organisms and viruses present in untreated waste. In the areas of Blairingone and Saline, e-coli and salmonella where amongst some of the pathogens found in the abundance of waste spread to land by a local factory.
It was in response to a petition to Parliament by the Blairingone and Saline Action Group and the 1998 SEPA report, that the Transport and Environment Committee report was published. Bristow Muldoon, Transport and Environment Committee convenor stated: “Having considered the serious issues raised by this petition, our committee believes that the current legal framework which allows such practices to continue is inadequate. Maintaining the status quo is simply not acceptable.”
Amongst the Committee’s recommendations are:
- the development of a consistent legislative framework for the spreading of organic waste to land;
- the setting of minimum standards of treatment for all wastes spread on land, except agricultural waste;
- a stipulation that contractors should provide information which demonstrates waste is of beneficial use to the land; and
- that blood and guts and septic tank sludge should not be applied to land
All these guidelines support the recommendations made by SEPA in its report nearly four years ago, or are derivatives of them. The Committee has also asked that the Executive give a detailed response as to why it failed to adopt SEPA’s land management plans from 1998.
Rob Morris, SEPA’s Land Unit Manager is happy with the advice in the report. “We are now keen to work closely with the Scottish Executive to deliver a more robust and effective legal framework…I hope the Committee’s report will provide impetus to the process which is already underway to deliver on SEPA’s original recommendations,” he says.
The National Farmer’s Union Scotland claim that the existing laws on spreading of waste to land make it already an “incredibly strictly regulated activity”. However a spokesperson for the organisation told edie that they were “working with authorities to strengthen and clarify the regulations”.
The Report comes shortly after the Environment Agency made recommendations for a strategy for managing waste from agriculture in England and Wales (see related story). The Scottish Executive have yet to comment on their plans to implement the recommendations from the report.
Story by Sorcha Clifford.