Under the sponsorship of the Government’s Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the Compost Association and BSI Professional Standards Services have produced the new BSI PAS 100 standard for composted municipal waste.

The standards specify minimum performance in a plant germination and growth test. They also specify upper limits for human pathogen indicator species, potentially toxic elements, physical contaminants and weed seeds.

“Independently monitored standards assure end-users of quality, consistency and reliability – all of which are vital if compost is to be a successful product,” said WRAP Chairman Vic Cocker.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher emphasises the importance of improving the opportunities for sustainable waste management. “We have been set landfill targets that mean we have to reduce our landfill by two-thirds by 2016, which is only 14 years away.” This is a colossal challenge, says Meacher. “There is no question that composting is going to play a major part in that,” he says. The UK currently generates 400 million tonnes of waste a year, increasing at an annual rate of 3-4% – which means it will double in 20 years. Seventy-eight percent of municipal waste goes to landfill

In a separate move this week, the Department for Environment has announced that the composting of kitchen waste is likely to be allowed as long as it meets specific treatment standards. The department has published a new consultation document on the issue, which proposes that certain premises would be given approval for composting and biogas treatment of catering waste containing meat.

Research commissioned by the department into pathogens such as BSE, scrapie, classical swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease, salmonella and E. coli was published in May this year. It recommends standards of treatment that allow composting and biogas processing to be carried out safely.

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