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UK organics sector challenges EU over compost and digestate quality

Organics recyclers in the UK are challenging plans to update the regulation on fertilisers across the EU, saying End-of-Waste (EoW) proposals cause “much concern”.

MRW exclusive

At present, UK producers and users of compost and digestate products made from biodegradable wastes are bound by the PAS 100 and PAS 110 and their quality protocols (QPs) for compost and digestate, respectively.

Members of the Renewable Energy Association’s Organics Recycling Group (REAORG) and the Biogas group have been invited to respond to proposals from the enterprise directorate of the European Commission - DG ENTR - for updating the EU Fertilisers Regulation.

A briefing note from REAORG to its members, seen by MRW, says: “No EU member state will be allowed to retain national EoW criteria which have the same scope as those set out in the revised EU Fertilisers Regulation. DG ENTR’s latest proposals cause us much concern”.

The proposals include:

  • putting EoW criteria for composts and digestates onto a formal basis across the EU
  • criteria relating to agronomic or organic carbon value
  • defining product categories as ‘inorganic fertilisers’, ‘organic fertilisers’, ‘organic soil improvers’, ‘other soil improvers’, and ‘growing media’

A significant manufacturer in the UK is Veolia, which produces a range of composts on sale at garden centres. Raquel Carrasco, Veolia’s organics and technology director, said the proposed regulations would impact negatively on the well established UK organics market.

“There has been a tremendous effort from the industry to develop a robust approach to manufacturing products from waste that can replace raw commodities, such as synthetic fertilisers. This is integral to the expanding circular economy, closing the loops locally and creating businesses and jobs,” she said.

“In direct contrast these regulations propose to lower the environmental standards under which these organic fertilisers are produced and will allow the entry into the UK of materials that have been manufactured with less rigorous technologies and approaches. These may come at a lower price and will displace some of the domestic market.”

The Organics Recycling Group says these proposals go further than the UK criteria which require declarations of typical characteristics but do not set minimum carbon and total nitrogen, phosphate and potash values.

The suggested categories ‘organic fertilisers’ and ‘organic soil improvers’ are seen as setting an artificial divide in terms of composts and digestates.  

Jeremy Jacobs, REAORG’s technical director, told MRW: “If these changes go through then the PAS regimes will no longer be valid and be overruled by this new EU position.

“Having spent 10 years establishing these with lots of public funding from WRAP this would not be good for industry.”

The REA, the Environmental Services Association and the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) have drawn up a draft document under an umbrella grouping, the UK Trade Associations, for submission to Brussels. ADBA, for example, believes end-of-waste quality requirements could lead to additional burdens on UK industry.

The associations are also lobbying UK representatives ahead of DG ENTR’s final meeting on 15-16 December.

The finalised proposals and impact assessment will be submitted to Commissioners early next year before going on to the Council of Ministers.

  • Updated 20 November 2014 to expand on the differences between the UK criteria and EU proposals


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