SEPA warns against gypsum bedding at Scottish farms

date29 June 2012

Scotland's environmental regulator, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), has today (Thursday 28 June) published a position statement on the use of recycled gypsum at farm sites.

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The agency has become aware that gypsum, from waste plasterboard and other gypsum-containing wastes, is being used as animal bedding at farms across Scotland and, following a number of recent livestock deaths in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the statement provides formal guidance on restrictions associated with the material.

The guidance highlights how the use of recycled gypsum as animal bedding would require a waste management licence as there is no exemption, within Scottish environmental legislation, for this material to be used in such circumstances. However, due to the associated risk to animal and human health, it would be unlikely SEPA would be able to grant a licence if it were to be used as animal bedding.

Stephen Field, Land Unit Manager of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), said:

The disposal of plasterboard, gypsum and gypsum-containing wastes can lead to the production of the highly odorous, and toxic, gas, hydrogen sulphide (H2S). Due to its high levels of sulphate, gypsum, and wastes with similar properties, cannot be landfilled with biodegradable waste in Scotland.

"When used in animal bedding, it is likely waste gypsum will produce considerable levels of H2S, due to the damp, non-ventilated conditions. In such circumstances, H2S presents a significant risk to animal and human life, as well as the environment, and we would advise against anyone using it for this purpose until there is clear, scientific evidence to demonstrate it does not pose such a risk."

See the SEPA website for the full position statement.

Ends

Notes to editors

Regulatory position

SEPA advises against the use of waste gypsum and gypsum from waste plasterboard in animal bedding on basis that it may present a serious risk to life.

As there are no exemptions in the waste legislation to allow the use of waste gypsum and waste plasterboard as animal bedding, any such uses may be reported to the Procurator Fiscal as an offence under section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

SEPA will not agree to the use of plasterboard and waste gypsum as animal bedding until there is clear scientific evidence to demonstrate that it does not pose a risk to livestock, humans and the environment from hydrogen sulphide generation.

SEPA is aware that research into the use of gypsum in different bedding systems may be undertaken and we will review this SEPA Position Statement if and when the results of research become available.