Legislation produces best composting levels

Countries with composting legislation and statutory standards in place are the most successful at composting, and the UK is not one of them, according to a new report. Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, however, are among the best.

The report was commissioned by the UK Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to support its campaign for the UK to develop such standards for composting. Focusing on composting standards in the EU as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA, the report found that the countries that have introduced supporting legislation as well as statutory composting standards have the greatest track records for composting. The UK is one of the few EU countries with no statutory standards for composting.

The countries that were found to encourage composting most strongly include Austria, Germany and the Netherlands – all countries in which compost products are used for a variety of applications in large volumes. Each of these countries has in place a statutory standard supported by systems for quality assurance.

The report points out that composting could become a cost-effective approach to municipal waste management if taxes were introduced for waste landfilling or incineration, plus regulation of residual waste treatment.

A series of key conclusions have been drawn up in the report based on the comparative analysis, laying out recommendations for successful composting programmes and guidance for statutory regulations. Recommendations include advice for the types of input materials that can be included in compost and emphasis of the importance of carefully planning lists of substances with the consideration of specific requirements of end-product users.

Other matters covered include the appropriate number of compost classes to include, issues of Quality Assurance Systems, development of compost markets and the problems involved with setting standards for procedures as well as products.

If any new legislation is to be introduced into the UK, consideration must be made of a possible new EU directive on composting. The European Commission has begun planning for the directive, but with some delays it may be 2004 before we see any formal proposals.

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