UK initiative to reduce organic waste sent to landfill

Encouraging technology that reduces the amount of organic waste sent to landfill is the driving force behind a consultation launched this week by the Waste Protocols Project, a joint WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) and Environment Agency initiative. The Quality Protocol for the production and use of quality outputs from Anaerobic Digestion, could make it easier to turn biodegradable waste into valuable products such as fertilisers and soil conditioners. It could also ease the regulatory burden by defining when the digestate ceases to be waste and therefore no longer needs to be subject to regulatory control.

Anaerobic Digestion (AD) is a natural process of microbiological conversion of organic matter, such as food waste from households and businesses. AD offers many benefits when compared to other methods of organic waste treatment, for example the process produces digestate which can be used as a fertiliser as well as biogas which can be harnessed and used to produce electricity onsite, or be sold back into the electricity grid.

Dr Richard Swannell, Director of Retail and Organics at WRAP, said: “Anaerobic Digestion and the market for products from the AD process are still in their infancy in England and Wales. However, the development of a Quality Protocol will help remove a major barrier to deploying this important technology and open up the market for digestate by giving users confidence in the end product.

“Quality compliant products from the Anaerobic Digestion process will provide users with confidence that these new products derived from waste material conform to agreed quality standards. This in turn will make it easier for industry to market and sell them.

“In the long-term, greater use of products derived from the AD process could reduce the amount of organic waste being sent to landfill and save producers the associated disposal costs.”

Martin Brocklehurst, Head of Environment Protection External Programmes at the Environment Agency, said: “By clearly defining the standards required to collect, transport, store, recycle and reuse source-segregated biodegradable waste, a Quality Protocol for AD could save businesses the time and costs associated with meeting waste regulations, without harming human health and the environment.

“We have worked with the Renewable Energy Association, Environmental Services Association and Composting Association to develop this Quality Protocol. We have now opened this up to consultation and are keen to hear the views of industry and other stakeholders.

“With the recent Defra announcement of a £10 million fund to develop commercial-scale demonstration AD plants, this initiative will add to the growing presence of the technology as a means to treat organic waste.”

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