Did you know that disposing of your garden waste in the wrong way can be damaging to our wildlife and ecosystems? From life-long fans of Allan Titchmarsh to new gardeners getting their first pair of gloves this summer, we all have a duty to care where our garden waste ends up.

Whether it's grass clippings, dead plants, or hedge trimmings – you should always dispose of your garden waste in the right way.

Garden waste usually consists of accumulated plants from gardening activities such as cutting or removing grass, weed removal, and hedge trimming – as well as general garden makeovers. The volume of garden waste varies from season to season, and of course, from household to household.

Whilst some garden waste may be used to generate compost or mulch – which can be used as a soil conditioner – not all garden waste is as friendly!

Some non-native plants found in gardens are considered to be invasive, meaning they can spread and cause environmental damage: which in turn can lead to health and wellbeing issues for members of the public.  Planting or causing non-native plants to grow in the wild is against the law – this includes dumping viable plant material outside your garden (e.g. cuttings, roots, seeds, whole plants, soil containing these materials).

Invasive freshwater plants from your garden pond are particularly difficult - and expensive - to control when they get out into the wider environment, and so special care should be taken to dispose of plants taken from garden ponds or water that might contain fragments of pond plants.

As a keen gardener, you can play an important role in protecting the environment of Wales by ensuring that you dispose of your waste in the right way.

Dumping garden waste in a field, forest, common land or over the back fence may seem harmless, but the risks can be significant – not only for the environment, but also for the gardener found to have fly-tipped. If you’re found to have dumped your garden waste, you could face a fine for small scale fly-tipping of up to £400.

Disruption to habitats & animals

Garden waste can contain seeds and plant parts which can regrow into new plants. If garden waste has been dumped illegally, these plants can grow and spread into areas where they may damage the environment and cause harm to animals.

These dumped plants, especially invasive and non-native species, may be harmful to local wildlife or livestock, and could disrupt nesting birds or restrict the growth of native plants. Horses can even die from eating grass cuttings containing toxins, so always make sure you’re disposing of your garden waste safely to avoid causing fatal harm.

The risk of wild and forest fires

Dumping garden waste – instead of disposing of it through your local council or recycling center - can contribute to wild fires. Heat generated by heaps of green waste composting down can cause fires to blaze during very hot weather, and with summers getting hotter every year, destructive wildfires are becoming more of a risk than ever before.

Blockage of drainage systems and rivers

One of the worst culprits for environmental damage from garden waste? Lawn clippings. Once lawn clippings make their way into waterways – whether impacting small streams, ponds, or even rivers – it reduces oxygen levels in the water, risking the fish and aquatic life. Lawn clippings and other garden waste can also cause blockages at waterways, leading to risk of flooding.

Blocking drains with garden waste will not only lead to a difficult conversation with whoever manages the waterway, but it can also cause major damage to local sewage and drainage systems. 

So, how can you avoid dumping your garden waste in unauthorised areas?

  • Do your research – all local councils in Wales will have correct up-to-date information on their websites about how to dispose of garden waste: local councils have different rules, and various schemes in place to avoid unauthorised dumping of any kind, including garden waste.
  • Most garden waste will be taken by your local council when placed in the right coloured bin or bag, or you can often take garden waste to designated waste sites or recycling centers, depending on the rules of your local council.
  • Visit this handy website or read this ‘Be Plant Wise: leaflet to learn more about how you can  protect wildlife, waterways and the environment from invasive plants’ 

Finally, make sure if anyone else is disposing of your garden waste that they are a registered waste carrier: if your waste is found to be fly-tipped, even if you paid someone else to take it away, you risk being fined if you didn’t make this check. It’s your Duty to Care where your garden waste ends up – You can check if someone is registered as a waste carrier with Natural Resources Wales here.

Protect the environment of Wales and avoid fines by making sure you dispose of your garden waste in the right way this summer.

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