Composting – what is it?

Composting is a biological process in which biological waste is broken down by micro-organisms to produce a fertilising material.

However, composting on a commercial scale is very different to that done in the average garden. It doesn’t involve pitchforks and wheelbarrows but dumper trucks and huge farm loaders. Municipal ‘green’ waste is collected and brought to the site. It is then shredded and piled into ‘windrows’, which are elongated piles with a triangular cross-section, for the composting to take place.

Composting produces harmful emissions. The process can either be carried out in the open air (called ‘open-windrow’), where is impossible to control these emissions OR it can be done in an enclosed environment (called ‘in-vessel’) where the emissions are contained and air is filtered before being released.

This site focuses on the risks posed by open-windrow sites or the in-vessel sites which fail to contain the emissions. Click on the links for more details.

19/02/09 Residents quash green waste planning consent in High Court.

8/04/09 Old Sodbury residents get Appeal dismissed for an exempt open windrow composting site on grounds of odour nuisance and potential health impact.

May 2009 Residents around the country tackle MP’s about the removal of their democratic rights in the siting, management and enforcement of compost farms. (Initial response received- Govt fail to act about problem – letter from Baroness Andrews, Parliamentary Secretary of State). Hilary Benn, Minister for the Environment, states regulation of compost sites to be reviewed and an updated protocol on the risks posed by bioaerosols is being considered.

7/05/09 Environment Agency admit malodours from compost sites are widespread and pervasive can travel 1.2 miles!

May 2009 DEFRA provide new guidance to local authorities; placing the onus on assessing the potential impact of odour nuisance from new compost farms firmly with Councils.

May 2009 EA prosecute Cranberry composting for odours which caused local residents to vomit.

June 2009 EA admit they have failed to ensure that compost facilities provide adequate risk assessments for bioaerosols.

Dec 2009 Stourbridge Operator admits odour nuisance and harm to human health.

Mar 2010 Richard Buxton win further EIA case on composting.

April 2010 DEFRA issue WR0606 report – highlights health risks from bioaerosols generated from compost sites.

June 2010 EA issue new draft guidance proposing to prevent new permits being issued for open windrow composting ( >500tonnes) when sensitive receptors are within 250m.

Nov 2010 EA finalise new interim position statement re bioaerosol risks from composting. No new permits for open windrow composting when sensitive receptors within 250m. Existing sites in this category to carry out bioaerosol monitoring (usually quarterly).

Nov 2010 Court of Appeal uphold the EIA case won in March. Local Authorities cannot rely on PAS 100 and Quality Protocol certification in place of environmental regulation.

What are the risks?

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