WRAP gears up to promote composting

A wide range of initiatives has been implemented by WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme) to promote composting. Anne O'Brien, Head of Organics, explains the importance of composting and the organisation's work so far.

Composting has an increasingly critical role to play in the management of municipal waste, particularly given local authority recycling and composting targets and the introduction of the LATS recently. The amount of organic waste being managed by local authorities has grown over the last two to three years, with the number of Household Recycling Centres accepting garden waste rising by around 50% and the quantity of garden waste collected from the kerbside showing an even greater increase.

Given these trends and targets, it is more important than ever that there is sufficient infrastructure to cope with the volume of material, and market confidence in, and demand for, the end product.

WRAP’s main purpose is to create markets for recycled resources and, within this remit, the aim of the Organics Programme is to increase the manufacture and purchase of quality compost by working at all levels of the supply chain.

By March 2006, the target set for the programme is to ensure that an additional 300,000 tonnes a year of kitchen and garden organic waste processing capacity is operational, to promote the collection of an additional 150,000 tonnes a year of kitchen and garden waste and to deliver training to up to 1,000 people working in the composting industry. We also aim to increase the level of availability of quality products and the awareness, willingness to buy and active purchase of composted products.

Over the past two years, we have worked hand in hand with key industry bodies and private companies to provide help and advice and develop a range of tools which can be used to boost the quality and reputation of compost. Work to date has centred primarily on standards development, quality assurance, research and development, marketing and expanding collection and processing capacity.

BSI spec for composted products

Many local authorities will be familiar with one of our main achievements to date, the development of the British Standards Institution Publicly Available Specification 100 (BSI PAS 100) for composted materials. Sponsored by WRAP and developed in partnership with The Composting Association, BSI PAS 100 is building market confidence by providing a baseline to ensure that compost is safe, consistent and reliable.

Launched in November 2002, the specification covers process controls and product quality limits and ensures the compost producer has implemented a thorough quality control procedure. It has been, however, only the start of WRAP’s work to develop a dynamic market for quality composted products.

Working with The Composting Association, we are now developing a compost specification for different end-use markets, and landscaping industry specifications have already been issued. We are also working with the horticulture industry on a set of guidelines for specifying composted green materials in growing media, in association with the Growing Media Association.

Raising standards also means ensuring that those working in the composting sector have the necessary knowledge and skills to produce and market a quality product that meets end market requirements.

To help achieve this, WRAP’s Landmark Training courses are designed to expand the learning opportunities within organic waste management. The courses cover a wide range of topics such as successful compost marketing, building organic waste management facilities and organic waste management for planners and regulators. To date, 22 courses have been run and more are planned for later this year.

To help local authorities further, an organics model contract was launched last month for the production of compost from segregated biodegradable wastes – with the aim of encouraging fair contractual arrangements based on clear specifications.

The contract will encourage a more open and transparent market for recycled materials supporting a market for processing biodegradable waste where services are provided to produce compost to a standard specification, on equitable terms, at the right price. The organics model contract provides the framework for negotiating these services.

To use the model contract, the local authority or composting operator can select the relevant clauses and then include their own terms and conditions, such as prices and site locations. Designed to be flexible, the contract offers a choice of options to meet different circumstances.

Additional composting infrastructure will also be paramount if local authorities are to meet future targets. Through its Organics Capital Support Programme, WRAP has awarded funding to ten composting projects with a further five in negotiation. The projects aim to deliver an increase in UK composting capacity of 300,000 tonnes per year. White Moss Horticulture and E.J. Goodwin (Peat Industries) Ltd have both received funding under the scheme , representing a pioneering move for the UK horticulture sector in co-locating both composting, peat extraction and blending facilities at one site. As a result 48,000 tonnes of quality compost will be processed into existing horticultural retail products per year.

There has also been direct funding support for local authorities through WRAP’s Local Authority Grant Scheme for Enhancing Recycling Rates at Civic Amenity (CA) Sites. Two application rounds have resulted in grants being provided to improve the collection of garden waste at over 166 CA sites in England, through better segregation, signage, staff training and public education.

The expected increase in garden waste materials collected as a direct result of the £2 million funding is expected to be approximately 80,000 tonnes.

Consumer sector role

WRAP’s composting work also extends to the consumer sector. Our Home Composting Initiative has to date involved working with 42 local authorities in England and Scotland to promote the sale of subsidised bins to residents in their area. The initiative seeks to promote home composting as a viable and easy way to divert waste from landfill, increase awareness of what can be composted and provide advice and support for all households engaging in home composting, via support materials, a dedicated helpline and advisors in the field.

We are also working with our partners and key stakeholders to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme and develop a model which allows local authorities to calculate how much garden and kitchen waste has been diverted from landfill as a result of home composting activity.

Throughout all of our composting projects, we strive to inform and educate on the benefits of quality compost. The more that is known about composting and composted products – both in terms of the science and best practice – the more advantage can be taken of its potential.

For more information on WRAP’s organic and home composting work visit www.wrap.org.uk.

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