The quality message
Despite the above message being extensively promoted by WRAP and AfOR over the past years, the presence of unacceptable levels of physical contaminants (‘non targeted’ materials) in biowastes collected and delivered to composting and anaerobic digestion processes is still, in some circumstances, a major concern for composting and AD operators.
To reinforce the ‘quality’ message, to put forward and provide solutions to reduce biowaste contamination, in October 2010 AfOR convened its ‘feedstock contamination’ special interest group. The group comprises of representatives from LARAC, WRAP, EA, composting and AD operators, local authorities, compostable packaging manufacturers and solicitor firms.
The main objective of the SIG is to work with composting, AD operators and Local Authorities and other important stakeholders to improve their understanding of the key issues which influence the quality of feedstocks being collected for treatment in source segregated biowaste collection schemes. For example, where cardboard in commingled with green and food wastes, this has a detrimental effect on the quality of outputs (see http://organics-recycling.org.uk/page.php?article=2011).
Through the SIG secretariat (AfOR), a number of actions have been taken since the group formation and a number of guidance documents have been release to Local Authorities, householders, composting and AD operators. All guidance documents can be found at http://www.organics-recycling.org.uk/collections.
In summary, AfOR has:
published and released to Local Authorities and composters guidance on compostable packaging and products, which explains how to identify false or misleading claims of conformity with compostable standards;
- published two ‘Call to Action’ papers focused on feedstock quality and the issues associated with co-mingling paper and cardboard with biowastes. The papers are available on AfOR’s web site, at www.organics-recycling.org.uk/collections;
- worked with WRAP to develop clear and simple messages for local authorities and their householders. In particular, AfOR has been working with WRAP to develop a ‘change of service' leaflet that LAs can use to explain to local residents that cardboard is no longer collected with the biowaste and why removing cardboard ensures that garden waste or garden/food wastes can be turned into quality compost for a variety of uses. Poster and bin stickers are also available to LAs to use as templates. See http://www.organics-recycling.org.uk/page.php?article=2207 for more information.
- provided a service for members to act as a facilitator between the Local Authorities and their contracted AD and composting operators. This service is aimed at assisting producers in working with their local authority partners to improve feedstock quality; and
- published a number of articles for biowaste magazines to raise awareness amongst stakeholders (mainly Local Authorities) of the biowaste contamination issue (see section ‘References’ below).
Through LARAC, who is part of the SIG, all the information above has been made available directly to local authorities.
AfOR is also in the process of:
- Developing a methodology that can be used to consistently measure contamination on input materials delivered to biowaste facilities (see section ‘measuring the levels of contaminants in biowastes’ below);
- Developing a gate fee matrix or a mechanism which indicates the fee that could be charged to feedstock suppliers according to the level of contamination received.
- Developing a biowaste specification template that Local Authorities and composters should use when specifying in their contractual arrangements the quality criteria for the biowastes delivered to composting and AD sites.
Finally, AfOR is currently discussing with Defra to ensure:
- Defra is aware of the work being undertaken by AfOR to reduce the levels of physical contaminants in biowastes delivered to composting and AD facilities;
- the importance of high quality biowaste is highlighted in Defra’s Action Plan on Quality and this includes description of appropriate measures for improving biowaste quality; and
- Defra’s future for Local Authorities on how to calculate recycling rates and report those rates into the Waste Data Flow System includes a mechanism to encourage Local Authorities to reduce the levels of contaminants in biowaste delivered to composting, AD and other biowaste treatment sites.
AfOR is in the process of finalising a methodology that the industry and Local Authorities can use to check the levels of physical contaminants in loads to:
If you wish to be kept informed, be involved in the work that AfOR is undertaking or provide AfOR with your feedback, please contact Kiara Zennaro (Kiara@organics-recycling.org.uk).
The Loop (LARAC) Issue 37 Winter 2011, page 4. Article entitled ‘AfOR on contamination’ (hard copy magazine).
MRW, 16 December 2011, page 8. Article entitled ‘Complaints on card compost’ (hard copy magazine).
Recycling Waste World, February 2 2012, page 6. Article entitled ‘The importance of cleaning up organics’ (see http://content.yudu.com/A1vhd3/RW02Feb12/resources/6.htm)
Lets recycle, 30 November 2012, ‘AfOR tackles confusion over green waste and card’. See http://www.letsrecycle.com/news/latest-news/compost/afor-tackles-confusion-over-green-waste-and-card