Action will not be taken against composters who do not have a new environmental operating permit until April next year, the Environment Agency has said.
Composters that were previously exempt were supposed to change over to the new permits from this month. However, the EA said that many composters will not meet requirements for the new standard permit and may need to apply for a bespoke permit.
A bespoke permit costs from £6-8,000 compared to £1,500 for a standard permit. In response, the EA is trying to find an alternative means of processing permit applications to reduce costs.
It plans to apply the standard rules identifying generic risk and, where a composter doesn’t comply on one or two points, these will be assessed. A bespoke permit looks at all aspects of how a business works – with no basic framework or standard rules to start from - and therefore costs more.
The Environment Agency is looking for comments from the composting sector as to how to further ease transition to the new permits.
Senior advisor Robert Wheadon said: “We don’t want to put people out of business; we want business to be regulated at the right level for the environment.
“If you just fall outside these rules because of x or y we will only charge you a little bit extra.”
Composters continuing to operate under an exemption will still need to meet obligations laid out in the regulatory position statement. And they will need to meet the “underlying requirement not to cause pollution to the environment.”
The Association for Organics Recycling has mixed feelings about the extension. MD Jeremy Jacobs said: “It’s disappointing that regulation is done at the last minute – it’s almost a knee-jerk reaction but they have done it with the best intentions.
“The problem is a lot of people have already jumped through hoops at a lot of expense. Now the Environment Agency has at the eleventh hour introduced this extension.”