Investigation after plastic ploughed into fields near Hitchin

PUBLISHED: 12:05 13 September 2018 | UPDATED: 14:58 13 September 2018

Plastic waste ploughed into fields near Whitwell. Picture: Paul Meccano

Plastic waste ploughed into fields near Whitwell. Picture: Paul Meccano

Archant

Bottle caps, batteries, cigarette lighters and other plastic has been ploughed into fields south of Hitchin, prompting an Environment Agency probe.

Plastic waste ploughed into fields near Whitwell. Picture: Paul MeccanoPlastic waste ploughed into fields near Whitwell. Picture: Paul Meccano

Paul Meccano told the Comet he was walking his dog near Whitwell when he saw plastic floating in the air and littered on paths. He then found it spread across at least four fields, with more than 300 pieces of plastic – seemingly from household waste – in just one square metre he saw.

“I and others are devastated that this waste has, irretrievably, been ploughed into the land through a failed, preventable process,” said Paul.

“I very rarely get to this point, but I am absolutely disgusted.”

The Environment Agency has told this paper it is investigating this contamination of farming land.

A spokesman said: “The practice of spreading waste materials to land is a regulated activity and can only be carried out when the material is of benefit to the soil or crops and is done with minimal impact to the environment.

“The spreading of certain waste materials such as compost or anaerobic digestate is a common practice for farmers and their contractors, especially during the post-harvest period.

“However, the spreading of waste that is of no benefit to the land or that is contaminated with materials such as plastics could have a lasting impact on the quality of the land.

“The Environment Agency does not allow this type of practice and will pursue the responsible party to ensure their actions do not damage the environment.”

Those expressing concern include Hitchin Highbury district councillor Sam Collins – who in July successfully proposed a motion to have single-use plastics banned from North Herts District Council facilities by 2020.

Liberal Democrat Mr Collins, who lives in St Ippolyts, said: “This is a terrible situation, and it is not yet clear how widespread the problem is, or indeed how it has happened. However, this is sadly a great illustration of why we need to really consider how we use plastics, and how they are disposed of.

“To some at the time, my plastics motion seemed rather petty – but this really brings home why it matters.”

If you see instances of pollution or suspect illegal disposal of waste materials, call the Environment Agency hotline on 0800 807060.

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