The Department of Agriculture has outlined in further detail the options available to farmers for dealing with green waste ahead of a ban on its burning, which will come into force from 30 November 2023.
The advice was compiled after a feasibility study was completed on the options farmers can use to sustainably manage green waste generated on farms, such as cut bushes and downed branches, without burning in the field.
The five different options laid out by the Department are detailed below.
Regularly managing hedges
The Department’s information states that regularly flailing hedgerows is a management technique which generates green waste that must be disposed, as the small amount of flailed material cut can decompose in place.
The advice says that flailing can be carried out every one or two years to maintain hedges, but those who use flail regularly must balance “environmental, practical and biodiversity considerations” when doing so.
Another option put forward by the Department is leaving any cut material to decompose in a heap over an extended period, which will improve biodiversity by creating a habitat.
Other options include chipping green waste to use for bedding housed livestock, before the used bedding is composted and land-spread.
The Department suggested that this may be an option for waste arising from hedgerow restoration, where bulkier material is removed from the hedge after more than three years since it was last managed.
Fuel for energy generation
The Department’s advice states that if a large volume of green waste requires management, there can be an opportunity for the material to be moved off-farm as a fuel for energy generation or for use in a local biomass boiler.
This will only be an option where enough waste has been generated to make transport and chipping economically viable.
The Department said that farmers should engage with a specific biomass harvesting contractor prior to carrying out any maintenance activity that they think could generate enough woodchip to make the option viable.
The factors that determine how viable the practice will be for a specific farm include the accessibility of the site, soil type, weather conditions, the tonnage of material generated and the type of green waste generated.
The Department also pointed to firewood recovery as an option, where larger woodier waste is generated from managing hedgerows.
It stated that dry firewood is an “excellent sustainable source of renewable energy” on farm to heat the domestic farm home.