Changing compost regs

By Andrew Watts

FARMERS INVOLVED in on-farm composting may be forced to consider the future viability of their activities once changes to Waste Management Licensing Regulations take effect.

The proposals will affect a number of sites located on agricultural land and currently operating under a waste management licence exemption.

At present those processing compost under a licence exemption are not subjected to a fee by the Environment Agency. The EA now intends to recoup the cost of issuing licences by charging a fee of about 500.

Currently licence exemptions carry basic requirements to protect the environment and permit up to 1000cu m of material to be held on site at any one time.

The relatively undemanding compliance requirements have meant that the EA been faced with a large increase in applications.

Following criticism of abuse and concerns over failure to protect the environment, DEFRA has revised the regulations.

From May 1 those with exemption certificates will be forced to comply with a number of new measures. They will be required to re-register with the EA.

Furthermore exempt sites will be limited to 400t at any one time, including material awaiting composting.

However, the EA has advised DEFRA that farmers should be allowed to store up to 1250t of material at the site where it is to be spread.

Mary Maffer, technical officer at the Composting Association explained that the revised regulations were designed to improve the operating procedures currently taking place.

“The amended regulations should serve to increase the level of professionalism within the industry and at the same time create a level playing field for all operators,” says Mrs Maffer.

But others are less convinced. Edward Heely, principal scientist with Devon based Ecological Sciences expects the changes to the regulations to add significant costs.

“In the first year we estimate extra costs of about 20,000 on our current volume of about 20,000t with a further 10,000 each year thereafter,” he says.