Composting plays growing role in waste strategy

Composting, which is a key link within the Waste Strategy in the drive to reduce the volume of waste going to landfill in the UK, should be given a boost by initiatives and policy decisions announced this year, including a national Composting Awareness event and a risk assessment by DEFRA on the composting of catering waste containing meat.

The Composting Awareness Week 2002, an international, multi-media education and awareness raising campaign, co-ordinated in the UK by The Composting Association, was launched at one of the country's showpiece composting sites in Cheshire.

Dr Jane Gilbert, Chief Executive of The Composting Association, said that the event "clearly highlights the growing importance of composting. To meet local authority and national recycling and composting targets, the emphasis must be on encouraging an increase in composting, developing sustainable markets for compost and promoting Best Practice throughout the UK."

WRG and Cheshire County Council have formed a successful composting partnership. WRG began composting green waste from local communities throughout Cheshire in 1997, and now has to sites, Maw Green and Gowy, as part of a ten-year contract with the council. Together, the two sites are on target to have composted over 100,000 tonnes of green waste by the end of 2002. The waste is delivered from 16 household waste and recycling centres throughout the county, operated by WRG, and from kerbside collections in some areas.

Chief Executive of WRG, Nigel Sandy, commented: "Waste Recycling's significant investment will continue to reflect our commitment to composting which has been porven to be both cost effective and sustainable, and which will undoubtedly play an increasingly important role in meeting the waste management challenges of the future."

Composting catering wastes
One of the challenges is dealing with catering wastes, including those containing meat products, which may once again be composted following a risk assessment* commissioned by DEFRA. The risk assessment concluded that, given certain processing standards and restrictions on applications, the risk to animal health from composting catering wastes is acceptably low.

At a conference on Friday 7 June, jointly arranged by The Composting Association and DEFRA, officials outlined plans to implement further legislative changes.

Following last year's Foot and Mouth epidemic, a change was made to the legislation making it an offence to apply any composted material which contains catering wastes to land. The resulting risk assessment has been reviewed by an expert panel and their key recommendations are:

  • Subject to suitable controls, composting of catering waste containing meat will be permitted
  • With the exception of individual householders, composting facilities treating catering wastes will require approval from the State Veterinary Service
  • National processing standards are to be introduced
  • A two-barrier composting process is recommended to ensure the required reduction in pathogens
  • On-farm composting of catering wastes will not be permitted unless total separation of livestock can be assured

After a spending almost a year in limbo following a series of regulatory knock-backs, the composting industry now has a platform to re-build from, as Dr Gilbert explained: "The Composting Association welcomes the risk assessment and the opportunity to discuss proposed outcomes with both industry and the government. This conference has shown that there is willing from all parties to see that future changes are robust and practicable, however there is still much to be done to ensure a draft amended Statutory Instrument is ready for consultation by August."

The consultation paper will be the precursor to a revised Animal By-Products Order which it is hoped will go before parliament before the end of this year. Dr Gilbert continued, "This is not simply a matter of amending the Order, there are many interrelated issues that need to be addressed that will affect the planning, financing and licensing / approval of facilities. The Composting Association is looking forward to working with Government and key stakeholders on this important matter to ensure it is completed in a timely manner."

The Animal By-Products (Amendment) Order 2001 (SI 2001/1704) made it an offence to allow livestock, including wild birds, to gain access to catering waste (treated or otherwise) which contains meat or meat products, or which originates from a premises on which meat is handled. It is proposed that a minimum total reduction of 4.7 logs (or greater) in risk of pathogen transfer must be achieved by the system, that it must utilise a multiple barrier approach and there must be a "closed reactor" phase. It is also proposed that any composted material which is applied to pasture land be subject to a two month grazing ban post application.

*Copies of the report are available on-line on the DEFRA web site at
http://www.defra.gov.uk/animal;/by-prods/cater/comprisk.htm



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