While on the surface it may seem like a simple matter of semantics, legal definitions such as these can have a profound impact on the industry.

When used to treat waste from food and other organic material, anaerobic digestion produces biogas that can be burned as a fuel and a solid ‘digestate’ that can be used as compost.

Scotland’s new regulatory position means that if processors go through a certification process (PAS110), these by-products will not be governed by formal waste controls.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) argues that while there will be up front costs to operators who seek certification, this will be offset by savings to their customers as they will no longer need to register for waste exemption if they wish to dispose of digestate on land.

SEPA’s decision only applies in Scotland, but a similar position has been adopted in England and Wales.

Kenny Boag, SEPA head of waste policy, said: “There is significant and growing interest in the use of anaerobic digestion technology in Scotland.

“It is a technology that can help maximise the recovery of value and resource from source segregated biodegradable wastes, principally through the recovery of biogas and high quality soil improvers.

“SEPA is aware that sometimes regulation can be perceived as involving requirements that are not commensurate with the environmental risk attached to the particular operation.

“By adopting this regulatory position on PAS 110 certified digestates SEPA is satisfied that we may secure the necessary level of protection of the environment and human health in a way that will encourage development and investment in anaerobic digestion technology as a means of dealing with source segregated wastes.”

Iain Gulland, director of Zero Waste Scotland, added: “Anaerobic digestion has a major role to play in delivering a Zero Waste Scotland.

“Returning nutrients from food and other organic materials to the soil, so they can improve soil quality and support food production, is the kind of closed-loop approach we need.

“We welcome SEPA’s decision to take this regulatory position for PAS110-certified digestate. It will help to provide a vote of confidence in an important and burgeoning industry, and we will continue to work with producers to further build confidence in digestate.”

Sam Bond

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