The state of composting and biological waste treatment in the UK

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In 2005/06 3.4 million tonnes of source segregated waste was composted, an increase of 28% on the previous year. 85% was municipal waste, with just over half of this collected at civic amenity sites
  • Less than one per cent of municipal waste was kitchen waste collected at the kerbside
  • 65% of waste composted was composted at dedicated composting / biological treatment sites, with 10% on farm and 11% at landfill sites
  • 74% was composted at sites with throughputs in the 10,000 – 50,000 tonnes a year category
  • The majority of waste (81%) was composted using open air mechanically turned windrows, with only 14% composted invessel
  • Annual turnover of the composting and biological treatment industry was estimated at just over £ 90 million
  • Employment was estimated at 1,200 full time equivalents
  • Just over two million tonnes of compost products were produced, an increase of about a third on the previous year
  • Agriculture was the largest market sector, with one million tonnes supplied. The majority was used on arable and cereal crops
  • Horticulture and landfill restoration / daily cover accounted for approximately a quarter of a million tonnes each
  • Mixed waste treatment accounted for just over 80,000 tonnes of organic waste, with the majority of the outputs used on site
  • There was an estimated two million tonnes of new capacity expected to come on-line over the next five years

This annual market survey of the UK composting and biological treatment industry was carried out on behalf of the Composting Association (TCA) and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) by M·E·L Research. It followed on from previous surveys implemented by or on behalf of the Composting Association.

Information was gathered on composting and mechanical biological treatment (MBT) of municipal and non municipal waste in the UK, as well as anaerobic digestion (AD). The survey had an excellent response rate this year from composting companies with survey information obtained from 126 companies who, between them ran 321 composting or biological treatment sites in 2005/06. Comparison with UK municipal waste data showed that the survey had captured detailed information on over two thirds of all UK municipal waste composting.

The high survey response rate has meant that for the first time it has been possible to make robust estimates for the financial turnover of the UK composting industry covering the production (not including blending), distribution and sales of compost. The 2005/06 turnover is estimated to be about £90 million.

It has also been possible for the first time to make reliable estimates of employment in the UK composting industry. The employment in the composting industry in 2005/06 is estimated as 1,200 full time equivalent employees. The quantity of source segregated waste composted in 2005/06 was 3.4 million tonnes. This is an increase of three quarters of a million tonnes (28%) on the 2004/05 figures. In total 85% of this was municipal waste with just over half of the municipal waste coming from materials deposited at civic amenity sites, and just under half from household kerbside collections.

Just over two million tonnes of compost products were produced from source segregated waste in the UK in 2005/06. Nearly half of this compost was sold, the majority direct to end users. About a third was used on the site of production and about a fifth distributed with no charge.

The market sector using by far the greatest quantity of composted products manufactured from source segregated waste was agriculture, with one million tonnes of compost products being supplied in 2005/06. Most of the compost going to agriculture went to arable and cereal crops. The next most important market sectors were horticulture and landfill restoration/ daily cover which used about a quarter of a million tonnes of compost each in 2005/06. Nearly half of compost produced from source segregated waste was sold with about a third used on the site of production.

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