Household waste given organic farming go-ahead

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HOUSEHOLD waste that has been composted and fermented can now be used in organic farming and horticulture, it has been announced.

The move, hailed as a “significant development for the sector” now means that the old policy of allowing only suitably treated ‘green’ wastes had been scrapped.

The change in policy comes after extensive lobbying by leading control body, the Organic Farmers & Growers, to clarify the situation.

From now on source-separated household waste (that which is segregated into dedicated containers by householders before local authority collection), can be used as an agricultural soil conditioner or fertiliser as long as it is processed and certified to the recognised composting or anaerobic digestion standards.

Experts said that this new ability to use these materials could have tremendous value to organic producers who have high demands for suitable inputs but have to sometimes seek them off-farm – such as arable farms with no livestock of their own, or organic horticultural units.

However, there will still need to be some controls on the use of these materials, to ensure farmers and growers employing them continue to meet the demands of the organic regulations.

The Organic Farmers & Growers’ chief executive, Richard Jacobs, said: “This is very good news as it opens up a new source of good, sustainable nutrients to organic farmers and growers.

“We must stress though that it is not a blanket go-ahead for the use of source-separated household waste. The PAS 100 and PAS 110 standards allow for approximately twice the level of heavy metals than is permitted in the organic regulation, so farmers using these inputs will need to ensure they have the results of analysis on any supply they take and share those with us before applying the fertiliser or soil conditioner.

“The issue of being able to unlock the value of properly composted or fermented source-separated waste has been up in the air for some time, so we recently pressed Defra for a definitive answer to the question and we’re pleased it has now said it considers the product to be in line with the organic regulation.”

MEETING THE STANDARDS

Standards for compost and the product of anaerobic digestion (digestate) are governed by PAS 100* and PAS 110** respectively if the resulting output is to be classified as a good source of soil conditioner or fertiliser for farmers and growers, rather than a waste attracting disposal licence costs.

Defra has clarified that composted or fermented waste is allowable as long as it has been certified to the relevant Publicly Available Standard.

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