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


*Copies of the report are available on-line on the DEFRA web site at;/by-prods/cater/comprisk.htm

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