29 Mar 2010

Larger scale composting to become more difficult?

On my recent blog "Incineration; an alternative" I had a comment left regarding new regulations from the Environment Agency. Sadly it came too late for me to add a voice to the consultation but it did wake me up to the changes being made....

Photos: Bisley Community Composting

This was part of the comment: "As somebody who works in the resource sector I wonder if you have considered the need for lobbying against some of the permitting and exemption changes coming into force on the 6th of April from the Environment Agency. They certainly make community and on-farm composting and anaerobic digestion more difficult if possible at all in most scenarios. It looks to me like a clear preferance to large centralised facilities from the Environment Agency."

Basically the proposed changes mean that under an exemption the amount that can be processed will be 60 tonnes at any one time rather than 1000 cubic meters at any one time which was previously the case.

My understanding is that if you are only doing green/garden waste and you have no more than 60 tonnes on site at anyone time then you should be fine and fit under the exemption. If you are considering doing more or other wastes then it could change. The hugely successful Bisley Community Composting Scheme with 110 members does not produce 60 tons p.a. so is not in that league of producing 60 tonnes 'at any one time'! Lower Slaughter (the only other long running CCS in Gloucestershire) only has 40 members and produces much less than Bisley.

However many other larger scale composters will need to act. I can't understand why the EA want to change it now and it appears it will indeed disincentivise smaller varied initiatives in favour of fewer bigger multinational projects that will need as much waste as possible to make a profit.

I understand the Community Composting Network have been doing little else but work on legislation and challenging some of the proposals coming forward since 2008 - with a very limited staff and hardly any funding - they have won some significant battles as a network – free exemptions, raising of the tonnage limit levels, no bioaerosol risk requirements etc. However it seems to me that we need a complete change in approach - community composting and other such schemes need to be made easier.

As a note the Community Composting Network are planning to improve their website and upload more info about this soon. Guidance on the new exemptions has been published by the EA and deals with the whole suite of exemptions (there are around 60), this is available online at: www.environment-agency.gov.uk/business/topics/permitting/115492.aspx

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