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Survey of wastes spread on land (2001)

In the context of the European Community Waste Management Policy (Commission of the EC 1996), the Directorate-General Environment has commissioned WRc, in collaboration with SEDE France and REI Italy, to undertake a survey on industrial wastes spread on land which covers the fifteen Member States of the European Union. This is the final report for the study which began in January 2000.

There are currently no specific regulatory controls at the Community level on wastes applied to land with the exception of sewage sludge. However, in Annex IIB of the Waste Framework Directive 75/442/EEC as amended by Directive 91/156/EEC (CEC 1991), landspreading operations of wastes other than animal carcasses and animal manures are considered as recovery operations as long as they are carried in accordance with Article 4, i.e. without endangering human health and the environment. The Directive specifies that companies undertaking such recovery operations can be exempted from a permit requirement if the competent authorities have adopted specific rules for these exemptions.

A wide range of wastes and by-products of industrial processes are being spread on the land in agriculture, forestry and land reclamation operations. Some materials generated from industrial processes are considered, by the producers at least, to be by-products rather than wastes so that they can be recycled to land as soil improvers and fertilisers with minimum restriction. Various control regimes apply to the practice of landspreading but most share the underlying assumption that it is for the benefit of the soil and it is a low cost disposal option. It is expected that landspreading will increase following the implementation of Community and National regulations which restrict disposal of organic-rich materials in landfills and which require treatment of organic-rich industrial effluent from different branches of the food and drink and other sectors.

If carried out satisfactorily, landspreading of wastes can be a valuable and cost-effective recycling of nutrients and organic matter to soil. However, landspreading of wastes needs to be carried out in a manner that protects human health and the environment and that ensures sustainable development.

This study aims were: To prepare the first review of current practices for landspreading of organic wastes (excluding sewage sludge and compost) across the European Union (EU); to provide a better understanding of the associated risks; and to suggest actions which would help to ensure a high level of environmental protection from landspreading operations.

Waste categories included in the survey were as follows:

  • animal manures;
  • waste from food and drinks preparation (sugar beet processing, meat and fish processing, dairies, vegetable processing, breweries, etc);
  • blood and gut contents from abattoir;
  • waste lime from cement manufacture or gas processing;
  • waste from basic organic chemical and pharmaceutical companies;
  • waste wood, bark and other plant material;
  • paper sludge and de-inking sludge;
  • sludge from drinking water production;
  • decarbonatation sludge from industries;
  • dredgings;
  • textile waste;
  • waste from the leather and tannery industry; and
  • slag from steel industry.

The main part of the report deals with landspreading on a generalised basis drawing on information from individual countries as appropriate. Landspreading practice in each Member State is summarised in the Appendices to the report. There were differences between Member States according to the extent of landspreading and the availability of information about the practice.

Survey of wastes spread on land (pdf format)

The whole document as one file (~2,200K)