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Facts about farming waste

Agricultural Waste Facts

Agricultural waste is simply the parts of crops not used for human or animal food. The four most grown agricultural crops in the world are sugarcane, maize, cereals, and rice – which also cause the highest amount of agricultural waste. Around 16,500 billion kilograms of just these four groups are grown annually, resulting in tens of thousands of kilograms of waste.

Many farms have processes in place to reuse and recycle agricultural waste, but unfortunately in some areas, it’s incinerated. This can release huge amounts of carbon emissions, toxic smoke, and unpleasant odours that harm the environment and potentially human health. The WHO claims smog from burning agricultural waste is one of the largest sources of ambient air pollution.

Agricultural waste goes beyond just unused crops though and farming activities generate all sorts of types and volumes of waste. Dig into some more agricultural waste facts and statistics from the UK and around the world.

What causes agricultural waste?

Different farming activities and processes create all sorts of agricultural waste. Growing and harvesting crops is the main cause of agricultural waste. Stems, branches, and leaves from harvested crops are all examples of plant residue that’s not needed. This waste is unavoidable and in many cases, this residue accounts for 80% of the crop.

Using fertilisers and pesticides to prepare fields and grow crops also creates chemical waste. This includes empty containers (that will probably still contain trace amounts), contaminated items, and expired fertilisers. Vehicles and machinery can create waste oil, fuel, and brake fluids that are a type of hazardous waste.

Animals also cause agricultural waste including through leftover feed, manure, and used bedding. Unused medicine and used syringes to care for any kind of farm animals are another source. Farms should have waste management plans in place to minimise agricultural waste where possible, but lots of this is unavoidable.

Which country produces the 
most agricultural waste?

Unsurprisingly, the highest agricultural-producing countries are those that generate the most waste. Agricultural development helped transform China over the past few decades, but it also means the nation’s rice and cereal crops create huge amounts of residue and waste. Studies and statistics vary but these are the countries that generally produce the most agricultural waste:

  • China
  • India
  • USA
  • Russia
  • Brazil

Agricultural waste statistics

Farming and agricultural work across the world produces incredible amounts of crops, meat, and dairy to feed our hungry bodies. Yet these practices also generate high volumes of agricultural waste. Some of this is unavoidable while steps can help reduce waste generated by farms and agriculture in some cases.

These agricultural waste statistics give an insight into how much waste our farms and agriculture work produce:

  • It’s estimated that around the world we could create up to 2 billion tonnes of agricultural waste each year
  • The EU produces 700 million tonnes of agricultural waste annually
  • In the UK we create more than 10 million tonnes of agricultural waste every year
  • Globally a staggering 2 billion tonnes of food is wasted before it even leaves the farm
  • Over 25% of food is wasted in the UK at the farming stage
  • The UK produces around 135,500 tonnes of agricultural plastic waste annually – a mix of packaging and non-packaging waste
  • It sounds a lot, but this agricultural plastic waste accounts for less than 2% of plastic packaging waste generated by the UK each year
  • Farms produce 43 million tonnes of manure and slurry wasteevery year (however, much is reused as fertiliser that doesn’t count as waste, so the figure could be higher)
  • Research by WWF found that 2 billion tonnes of food are wasted around the world before it even leaves the farm
  • Producing 1kg of beef requires around 25kg of crops

How should I get rid of 
agricultural waste?

Any type and amount of agricultural waste must be removed from the site by licensed waste carriers and disposed of safely, legally, and responsibly. This includes everything from waste crops to expired pesticides and waste oil. At Business Waste we can help with our nationwide network of agricultural waste experts.

We can provide free bins and containers to store your agricultural waste with no delivery or rental fees – you only pay for collection. This includes IBC containers for liquid waste and barrels and drums for oil waste. Licensed waste carriers will remove your agricultural waste at an agreed time and transport it to an appropriate waste management facility.

Find out more about our agricultural waste collection services wherever you’re based as we cover all of the UK. Speak to one of our friendly team if you have a question or want some more information. Get a free quote for agricultural waste collection today – call 0800 211 8390 or contact us online.

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