Disposing of Ragwort in Scotland

Correct disposal matters

Bulk ragwort being taken away in a trailerAn important part of ragwort control is the safe and effective disposal of the plant to help reduce the risk of further spread. It’s vital to ensure horses can’t access wilted or dead plants - these are more palatable and just as toxic.

What affects your disposal options?
• The amount of ragwort to be disposed of
• Facilities available on-site
• Local resources available.

The Scottish Government's Guidance on How to Prevent the Spread of Ragwort (Appendix 5) (pdf) offers a number of different methods and best practice guidance. Realistically, not all the options are feasible for equestrian properties, so this guide highlights the most common methods.

• Consider how you’ll dispose of ragwort at the same time as planning a control system
• Where possible, use on-site disposal
• If there is any risk of seeds being dispersed, the flower heads can be cut off and placed in sealed bags.

Man disposing of ragwort without personal protective equipmentWhen handling ragwort (either live or dead plants) gloves must be worn and a facemask is recommended to prevent the inhalation of ragwort pollen.

AlertDo not…
• Bury ragwort in manure heaps
• Use ragwort as animal bedding
• Dig, bury or plough ragwort into the ground
• Attempt to dry ragwort where animals could access it
• Allow seed dispersal from plants awaiting disposal
• Transport ragwort unnecessarily
• Transport ragwort unless it is in sealed bags or containers.

Domestic refuse collections are for domestic premises only, subject to Local Authority approval.
Unless the Local Authority specifically permits its inclusion, ragwort should not be included with green waste collection. The composting facilities may not have the necessary resources and procedures in place for handling ragwort.

IncineratorOption: Controlled Burning or Small-Scale Incineration

Suitable for: disposing of small quantities where ragwort can be safely wilted prior to burning

  • Ragwort should be stored under cover to wilt or in paper bags where horses can’t access it. Although empty plastic horse feed bags are likely to be readily available on the yard, they’re not suitable for ragwort to wilt in as it’s likely to turn to mush.
  • Plastic bags must never be burnt.
  • Secure storage and controlled burning of less than 10 tonnes per day of plant matter may be allowed under an exemption from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) under The Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994. An exemption is not required for domestic sites.
  • Causing nuisance from smoke and deposits from bonfires is an offence under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 Part 111 – Section 79.
  • If dark smoke starts to appear, do not add any more slow-burning materials.
  • Ragwort burning or incineration should be undertaken and supervised by the owner/occupier/manager of the premises.

Considerations Before Burning

  • Weather conditions, especially wind direction and wind strength
  • Avoid causing a nuisance to nearby residential areas
  • Take precautions to avoid any surrounding combustible vegetation
  • Do not start fires close to a road. If an incident occurs as a result of the fire or smoke, this can be classed as an offence.

Domestic Settings

Checks should be made with your Local Authority for any bylaws prohibiting burning of garden waste. Visit cosla.gov.uk to search for a Local Authority.

Rotting ragwort safelyOption: Rotting

Suitable for: disposing of small quantities where ragwort can be safely rotted down on-site.
Note: the Scottish Government does not class this as composting

  • A compost bin, or similar, with a lid is required.
  • The location should be sited away from any ditch, watercourse or area where animals could access it.
  • The ground should be levelled out.
  • The earth needs to be loosened to allow earthworms, insects and micro-organisms to get to the material and also so any liquid can drain freely into the soil.
  • If the ragwort has been collected in plastic bags, the material must be emptied directly into the bin. Never add plastic to the bin.
  • However, paper bags/sacks will decompose and can be put into the bin. Slicing the bags will help increase the rate of biodegradation.
  • The ragwort should be covered with a layer of grass cuttings to speed up the decomposing process and help prevent the material from drying out.
  • If the material dries out, seeds or roots may not be fully destroyed and could lie dormant.
  • Water should be added as required to keep the material moist.
  • When the compost bin is emptied, beware of the risk of any dormant material being spread. To help eliminate this risk, material can be left to rot for up to 12 months. During this time, no fresh material should be added.
  • If there are any concerns about residues, they should be taken to landfill.
  • Unlikely to have any impact on controlling the spread of ragwort.

Option: Using a Waste-Management Company

Suitable for: large-scale removal where on-site disposal is not possible or feasible

  • Ragwort can be removed professionally and disposed of legally.
  • It’s important that the company provides a wheeled or bulk container with a lid. Open skips must not be used to collect ragwort.
  • Approved contractors/waste management companies are registered with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). Visit apps.sepa.org.uk to find a registered company near you.

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