Eighteen months since the Compost Quality Protocol came into effect during Compost Awareness Week 2007, the composting industry has swiftly embraced self-regulation.
The production and trade of high quality composts will remain essential for on-going strong growth of the UK's composting industry and progress towards meeting tougher targets for diverting untreated biowastes from landfill. Between 2005/06 and 2006/07 the industry grew by 5 %, composting an estimated 3.6 million tonnes of biowaste per year during this latter period.
Markets have perceived biowaste-derived composts with a 'waste' tag as poor quality and low value. The British Standards Institution's Publicly Available Specification for Composted Materials (PAS 100) and the Association's for Organics Recycling's PAS 100 compost certification scheme enabled producers to prove their composts were high quality and increase their sales prices per tonne. However, in England and Wales, composts derived from controlled biowastes remained 'waste' in law and the required waste management licence exemptions for spreading them on land involved significant red tape and costs.
Recognising that compost's quality and 'product' or 'waste' status affects its saleability and price, a Compost Quality Protocol (CQP) was drawn up jointly by the Environment Agency and WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), in consultation with the Association for Organics Recycling and stakeholders in composting and associated industries.
The CQP came into effect during Compost Awareness Week 2007, bringing welcome clarification of the point at which waste regulatory controls are no longer required for the supply, storage and use of composts derived from controlled biowastes. Since the Environment Agency formally recognised the CQP in its regulatory position statement published in March 2007, composts that became certified compliant with the CQP (including PAS 100), could then be supplied, stored and used as products by customers in the markets recognised in the CQP.
Following the CQP's launch on 15th March 2007, the Association for Organics Recycling updated its compost certification scheme so that the checks covered both PAS 100 and CQP requirements. Since then, the number of composting processes on the scheme has grown from 105 to 168 (an increase of 60 %) and the biowaste input tonnes they collectively compost per year has gone up from 1.7 to 2.8 million tonnes (an increase of 63 %).
Jeremy Jacobs, the Association's Acting Chief Executive, said “We are delighted with the industry's swift moves towards implementing the CQP's requirements and increasing the supply of high quality compost products”. Martin Brocklehurst, Head of Environment Protection External Programmes added “We have worked with industry to remove the uncertainty surrounding the end of waste. This is a leading example of how to apply the principles of proportionate risk based regulation and allow us to focus resources on higher risk waste activities”. Dr Richard Swannell, Director of Organics and Retail at WRAP, endorsed these comments “This is encouraging industry to focus on producing quality compost products to the benefit of their customers and the wider environment.”
The CQP has recently overcome its last hurdle as it has been approved by the European Commission's Technical Standards Commission. This process checks that the document does not have the potential to create a technical barrier to trade. The Quality Protocol is available to download from the Environment Agency website http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/subjects/waste/1019330/1334884/?lang=_e