Figures from the Composting Association (CA) for 2003/04 have indicated that composting waste has gone up by a fifth to 1.97 million tonnes, with the number of composting facilities having risen by nearly 50% since the 2001/02 period.

Of all the waste composted, almost three-quarters was household waste, while 4% was municipal non-household waste and 23% was commercial waste.

During 2003/04, expansion of the industry focussed on garden waste, which accounted for 95% of municipal wastes composted, and virtually all household wastes composted.

Despite considerable and sustained growth, particularly through the on-farm composting sector, only approximately one-fifth of the estimated 7 million tonnes of household garden waste arisings in the UK in 2003/04 were composted by the industry, whilst the estimated 6 million tonnes of kitchen wastes remained a largely untapped resource.

“This report highlights how the composting industry is continuing to expand whilst demonstrating professionalism and the ability to adapt to the changing regulatory framework,” chief executive of the CA, Dr Jane Gilbert stated. “The report shows a considerable growth in small, dispersed facilities during 2003/04, which are beneficial as they enable the treatment of waste near to where it is produced.”

“However, this growth now needs to be complemented by the development of large-scale facilities that are able to treat more difficult and greater quantities of feedstocks.”

The survey recorded the manufacture of approximately 1.2 million tonnes of composted products, of which the largest fraction was soil conditioner at 61%, followed by mulches at 16%. Other fractions including growing media constituent and ingredients in manufactured topsoil, whilst turf dressings accounted for the remainder.

Around 40% of composted product went to agriculture in 2003/04, reflecting the increase in on-farm composting facilities, while over a third was utilised in markets with a sales value including horticulture, landscaping and domestic gardening.

The utilisation of composted products in landfill engineering fell by 18% from 2001/2, and when combined with product used in land restoration combined accounted for the remaining 24 %.

“The growth in the use of compost in agriculture is extremely encouraging,” head of organics at WRAP, Anne O’Brien commented, “But as this is often a free-of-charge outlet, we must continue to work hard to develop a range of sales opportunities for composters in order to enhance the industry’s long-term commercial viability.”

The State of Composting in the UK 2003/4 report was supported by the Environment Agency (EA) and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

By Jane Kettle

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie