The importance of cleaning up organics
Co-mingled collection of cardboard and paper with green waste is having a detrimental effect on the quality of output which is used on a range of applications. Jeremy Jacobs examines the implications.
Jeremy Jacobs MD, Association for Organics Recycling
HE QUALITY of biowastes is essential to secure the production of high quality composts and digestates compliant with PAS 100 and PAS 110 specifications
and acceptable in the market place. Based on AfOR members’ feedback, additional processing required to remove contamination is costing the industry up to £78m per annum, while the cost of landfilling the process rejects is in the range of £12.8m to £19.1m per annum. This cannot be an effective use of what is, after all, a valuable resource. Removing cardboard and paper at source
and using the segregated material in the recycled paper and cardboard stream must be a more effective ‘resource recovery’ option than that of incorporation in the green waste fraction.
Qualifying for recycling It is also becoming clear from the European’s debate on recycling, that compliance with end of waste criteria, which currently means compliance with PAS 100 and PAS 110 specifications (Scotland), or the Compost and Anaerobic Digestate Quality Protocols (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), will sooner or later become a regulatory requirement for local authorities intending to count the input materials processed through composting and anaerobic digestion (AD) towards their recycling performances. This has already become reality in
Scotland, where composting and AD of source-segregated biowaste will continue to contribute to local authority recycling performance regardless of output status only until the end of March 2013. From April 2013, only composting sites certified to PAS 100 and AD sites certified to PAS110 will contribute to recycling performances. Hence, it is crucial for LAs to work
closely with their contracted biowaste processors to assist them wherever possible to produce composts and digestates complying with PAS 100 and PAS 110 minimum quality criteria.
European end of waste The European Commission has asked its joint research centre (JRC) to develop proposals for end-of-waste criteria for composts and digestate. These will determine when a product like compost or digestate is of a high enough quality to no longer be considered waste. If and when these criteria come into force
(possibly in late 2013), it is likely they will replace our national end-of-waste criteria (PAS 100 and 110, or the quality protocols). It follows that compliance with these
criteria will be required if local authorities intend to count the input materials processed through composting and AD towards their recycling performances.
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It is crucial for councils to work closely with their contracted biowaste processors to help them produce composts that comply with PAS 100 and PAS 110
AfOR special interest group Ensuring that the quality of organic amendments to commercial agriculture are fit for purpose has been an area of activity rigorously pursued by a number of stakeholders including AfOR and led by the Waste and Resources Action programme (WRAP). There has been a significant body of work commissioned by WRAP to assist in building confidence in the market in order that there is greater acceptance of the suitability of materials such as green waste and food waste derived compost in the marketplace. It is imperative that this good work is
not undermined by the application of sub- standard composts or digestates to farm land. In light of the above issues, in 2010 AfOR
convened a special interest group focused on feedstock contamination. The group comprised representatives from LARAC, WRAP, EA, composting and AD operators, local authorities, compostable packaging manufacturers and solicitor firms.
Actions taken by AfOR Since the formation of this working group in 2010, AfOR has implemented the following actions: • Publishing a guidance on compostable packaging and products which explains how to identify false or misleading claims of conformity with compostable standards. The guidance is available on AfOR and LARAC’s web sites.
• Sending out two ‘call to action’ papers focused on feedstock quality and the issues associated with co-mingling paper
and cardboard with biowastes. The papers are available on AfOR’s web site, under the newly created section ‘collections’.
• Working with WRAP to develop clear and simple messages for local authorities and their householders. The messages should clearly indicate what should and shouldn’t go in the biowaste collection containers and could be used by the LAs to educate householders via their web sites and other educational material (e.g. leaflets, stickers).
• Providing a service for members to act as a facilitator between the local authorities and their contracted AD and composting operators. This service is aimed at assisting producers in working with their local authority partners to improve feedstock quality. AfOR is also in the process of developing
a standard protocol that can be used to consistently measure contamination at composting and AD sites. It is also developing a gate fee matrix
which indicates the fee that could be charged to feedstock suppliers according to the level of contamination received.
Penalising poor performers Recently, the Welsh Government launched an important consultation on the draft guidance in support of the recycling, preparation for re-use and composting targets (Definitions) (Wales) Order 2011 and Regulations 4 and 5 of the Recycling, Preparation for Re-use and Composting Targets (Monitoring and Penalties) (Wales) Regulations 2011. This guidance will provide clarity on the definitions of recovery targets and, most
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importantly, on the monitoring and reporting requirements contained in the regulations. The calculation proposed for the overall recovery targets means that any reject tonnages will not be classed as recycled. Providing that a mechanism is in place to
ensure the levels of rejects reported into Waste Data Flow are accurate, this proposal should incentivise local authorities or waste suppliers to reduce the amount of contaminants delivered to waste management facilities. AfOR would like Defra to adopt a similar
approach in order that there is greater transparency in respect to the reporting requirements which are fed into Waste Data Flow. If there is no mechanism for accounting
for contaminants received, then inappropriate material such as plastic and uncompostable materials will be counted towards the recycling percentage. This does little to incentivise local authorities to provide cleaner feedstocks to composting and anaerobic digestion facilities. As we strive to improve output quality
and make use of this valuable resource, this will only be successfully achieved by working closely with the householder, collection authority and processors. In this way the organics recycling industry will continue to flourish and provide a much needed soil replacement which is becoming highly valued
• If you wish to be kept informed, be involved in the work that AfOR is undertaking or provide AfOR with your feedback, contact Kiara Zennaro at Kiara@organics-recycling.
Recycling & WA S T E W O R L D
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