Environment minister Richard Benyon has sought to reassure Parliament that the regulations and sanctions surrounding green waste “should be working” after concern over the contamination of such waste spread on agricultural land.
Bob Russell MP raised the question of increasing amounts of contaminated green waste - which includes biodegradable garden and food waste. He said that one of his constituents, who is a metal detector hobbyist, alerted him to the fact that there was a “scrapyard strewn across fields”.
He said: “Nowadays, when he and fellow metal detecting enthusiasts, with the permission of the land owner, go out looking for buried treasures from the past they are more likely to find a wide variety of metal, cut, crushed and mashed among the rotting green waste.”
There were thousands of tonnes of green waste being contaminated with medical waste, old batteries, various metals and plastics, Russell added.
He also said: “Not everyone in the green waste industry is up to the job, whether we are talking about deliberate deceit or failure to comply with the strict regulations.”
An example he gave was the case of Vital Earth, which was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay costs of around £13,500, when it was found guilty of charges under the Environmental Protection Act at Derby magistrates court in August. The compost delivered to a farmer was found to be mixed with plastic, paper, and metal waste.
However, Benyon said “the Government are in absolutely no way complacent about this. We might have the most stringent standards in Europe.”
Benyon said the investigation and enforcement of environmental controls was undertaken by the Environment Agency and that Defra was looking at the impact of “the impacts of other materials spread on land and whether we have the right controls in place”.
He added: “I can assure him that there will be no lack of will among Ministers or those in the Environment Agency to take up those cases.”
Russell was disappointed with Benyon’s remarks and said “What he describes is simply not happening out there in the field.”