What to do with your biodegradable waste material

There are a number of options available to farmers wondering what to do with the biodegradable wastes created on their farms.

Household food waste or animal by-products

Any material containing household food waste or animal by-products (animal carcasses, parts of carcasses or products of animal origin that are not intended for human consumption) must be handled in accordance with the Animal By-Products Regulations. The types of food wastes that you would normally compost at home are not covered by these regulations.

Animal by-products are divided into three categories depending on their potential risk to human and animal health or to the environment. There are different rules for disposing of waste in each category. The EU Animal By-Products Regulation (EC1774/2002) legislation permits the treatment of low-risk (Category 3) animal by-products such as domestic and commercial kitchen wastes in approved composting or biogas plants.

Green waste

Green waste refers to waste such as grass and flower cuttings, branches and hedge trimmings or waste from processing fruit and vegetable crops.

In England and Wales, green waste may be composted on site under an exemption from Enviromental Permitting (Exemption T23) or under an Environmental Permit. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, green waste may be composted on site under an exemption from Waste Management Licensing (Paragraph 12 exemption) or under a Waste Management License.

The use of the resulting composts also requires an exemption, license or permit. Alternatively, green wastes may be collected by a commercial operator for processing into compost at their own site.

Become a certified producer of compost or anaerobic digestion plant operator

Your organic waste and organic waste from the local community could become a source of revenue for you either through converting it to compost or feeding it into anaerobic digesters.

The latter uses the waste to generate methane which can be used as a fuel and the non-digested sludge residue (anaerobic digestate, or AD) can be used as a rich agricultural fertiliser.

There are quality protocols for both compost and for anaerobic digestate. If you produce or recycle biodegradable wastes, compost, or AD, it is likely to be in your interests to comply with the relevant quality protocol. One key element of both protocols is that your product must be certified as being compliant by an independent, UKAS-accredited certification body.