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Pollution incidents on the rise

The final Defra AD Strategy and Action Plan report flagged up a number of significant pollution incidents in the sector and non-compliance with environmental permits.

It stated: “Environment Agency data show that the biowaste treatment sector, particularly AD, had proportionately more serious and significant pollution incidents than other waste treatment sectors regulated by the EA. Recorded incidents increased from 0 in 2010 to 21 for every 100 permits in 2012.

“Compliance with environmental permits for biowaste treatment during the same period was the poorest in the waste sector; AD permit compliance was only marginally better than composting. These incidents and poor compliance issues are preventable. While they continue to occur, they undermine public and investor confidence in the AD industry and hinder its growth.”

Industry Responses

Charlotte Morton 182

Charlotte Morton, chief executive, ADBA:

Waste AD is a young and growing sector, which has undoubtedly faced some teething problems. We must take care that figures give a fair impression of the sector: ‘reported incidents’ can include several from the same site and the majority of plants have not had such problems. However, as an industry, weare working hard to improve standards. Expanding training provision is a priority, to ensure that all plant operators have the necessary expertise to manage their plants safely and effectively.



Julian O’Neill 182

Julian O’Neill, chief executive, Biogen:

The AD industry needs to shape up in response to these statistics. Compliance with environmental permits, along with the broader health and safety agenda, has got to be at the top of the list for all operators. Running commercial food waste AD plants is not for novices, and the industry needs to maintain its focus in establishing high-quality operating procedures.

Richard Gueterbock 182


Richard Gueterbock, marketing director, Clearfleau:

It is important that all companies active in the AD sector pay attention to plant safety issues and this must be a priority for the entire industry: technology suppliers, developers and site operators. AD is a biological process and plants need to be well managed and effectively monitored.

Because of this, all Clearfleau plants have an on-site laboratory to keep a close watch on key operational parameters. It is also important that operators understand the feedstocks and how they perform in the digester.

It is of concern that some AD plants using imported technology send samples back to the supplying company for analysis, when it might be better to undertake such tests on-site. This would offer plants more immediate feedback and help operators to manage the plant more effectively on a daily basis. However, the entire industry needs to work together to improve site safety and minimise pollution risks.

  • Pollution incidents on the rise

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