The organics processing industry has grown from the building of the first industrial compost and anaerobic digestion sites in the 1990s to an industry that treats and recycles millions of tonnes of waste and other materials today, with inputs coming from household, non-household, commercial and industrial sources.
In the future, we expect the industry to grow further still, utilizing both existing capacity and new capacity to treat waste diverted from disposal routes under the proposals that are part of the Resources and Waste strategy (RWS) in England and Beyond Recycling in Wales. The industry is faced with the exciting opportunities that are brought to the fore by potential increases in feedstock supply, recognition of the importance of the circular economy and the need to value our resources, increasing demands for renewable energy and an increasing awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy soils for food production as well as for delivering healthy ecosystems. For it rise to these opportunities, the sector must remain a trusted and welcomed option for waste treatment that delivers valuable products. Recent times have seen the questioning of some current practice in the sector and it is now critical that a series of challenges that threaten to undermine the ability to deliver are addressed.
Why do we need to do this?
The sector is under increasing scrutiny by regulators, farmers and food producers and buyers. In an age where plastic pollution is a visible and emotive driver of public opinion and action, the presence of plastic in the composts and digestates that are spread to land is an issue that must be solved.
The growth of the anaerobic digestion industry and the spreading of digestate is becoming an identifiable source of ammonia emissions in the UK emissions inventory and measures are needed to reduce and mitigate the impact of the sector on UK air quality targets.
Despite their clear agronomic and soil quality improving characteristics, composts and digestates are generally viewed as low economic value materials and can be clear costs rather than valued products within a business.
Structure and delivery of the roadmap
A working group of organisations and individuals has identified the actions that are listed in the tables below as being those that need to be addressed to secure the future of a robust organics reprocessing sector. The majority of the actions identified tackle the immediate issues around the quality of composts and digestates but there are also actions that address the critical areas of reducing potential for ammonia emissions and maintaining and driving value for all outputs from both composting and AD. This roadmap is intended as a starting point. It is important to recognize that it is inevitably not going to be completely comprehensive and that some actions will take longer to complete that others. In time, new issues will emerge and new actions will be required as progress is made completing actions and delivering against this road map. However, in setting out this roadmap at this point in time, all parties have arrived at a consensus that the many actions listed in this plan need to be undertaken and completed. Each action has an accountable owner who will frequently need the input of others to deliver successful outputs. As such, the road map represents a collaborative framework which will be delivered jointly and severally by the Government, regulators, local authorities, the organics reprocessing sector and its trade body representatives.
The process of managing the roadmap and the completion of its actions will be undertaken by WRAP, on behalf of Defra. WRAP will convene the actions owners, monitor and report progress, and ensure that the roadmap remains a live and relevant document and plan.
This document is a constructive road map with clear objectives and actions for local authorities, organic processors, policy makers and regulators that puts in place actions that will reduce contamination of feedstocks for organic processors, increases recycling rates, increases feedstock supply and protects the environment.
7 September 2021
Anaerobic digestion and composting: Latest industry survey report, new summaries of technology, and impacts
This survey provides up-to-date information about the capacity and throughput of the AD and composting industries in England and compares this data to that gathered in previous survey exercises.
13 January 2021