UK AD industry needs tough talk in Brussels to get EU ‘End of Waste’ proposals into shape

REA and Defra are working together to change proposals which threaten to undermine the developing UK digestate market

The UK anaerobic digestion (AD) industry is under major threat from proposed changes to the EU Waste Framework Directive [1]. The changes, known as “End of Waste”, could introduce new, inappropriate, and damaging procedures on the use of the digestate from the AD process. The REA [2] is engaged in constructive dialogue with Defra officials and AD operators to build a strong negotiating position with the clear objective of ensuring that the UK industry’s concerns are represented in Brussels and vital changes made.

AD, a renewable energy technology to which the Coalition Government is committed, produces energy in the form of biogas and a by-product (“digestate”) which can be used as an organic fertilizer. This digestate is currently tested against the high standards set by the Biofertiliser Certification Scheme (“BCS”) administered by REAL [3]. The new regulations would force BCS to align with its new and largely inappropriate criteria.

Contrary to recent reports [4], the proposed End of Waste criteria do not represent a more stringent set of regulations than the BCS criteria – rather, they are simply wholly inappropriate in the UK context. In their current form they are aligned to German AD practice, which typically uses large percentages of energy crops as input, in contrast to the UK model where food waste is commonly 100% of the inputs.

The UK is the only member state to have developed its own End of Waste process, however, if the new proposals are not changed, much of the digestate UK AD produces would be reclassified under the End of Waste criteria not as “recycled product”, but as “waste”, greatly impacting on both its commercial viability and on its ability to contribute towards local authority recycling targets, which is a major part of the technology’s appeal.

REA Chief Executive Gaynor Hartnell comments:

“Five years ago the REA recognised that for biogas to really take off in the UK, plant operators needed to get the digestate they produced recognised as a valuable fertiliser, rather than a problematic waste. We have the Biofertiliser Certification Scheme up and running, which does just that, and the first few plants are now getting their certificates.

“Their digestate is a seen as an environmentally friendly alternative to mineral fertiliser, having a lower carbon footprint and many other beneficial characteristics. Certified biogas plants can make a valuable contribution towards achieving local authorities’ recycling objectives. There needs to be a full impact assessment to fully understand the potential impact on UK business. We can’t have new rules imposed from Europe which would send us back to square one.”

[1] Article 6 of the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC). The End of Waste criteria have been developed by the EU’s JRC-IPTS (Joint Research Centre - Institute for Prospective Technological Studies), which takes many decisions in closed session.
[2] The Renewable Energy Association represents renewable energy producers and promotes the use of all forms of renewable energy in the UK across power, heat, transport and renewable gas. It is the largest renewable trade association in the UK, with 960 members, ranging from major multinationals to sole traders. The REA has dedicated websites for Biogas and the Biofertiliser Certification Scheme.
[3] The Biofertiliser Certification Scheme provides assurance to consumers, farmers, food producers and retailers that biofertiliser is safe and of good quality. It is administered by the REAL Assurance Scheme, which was set up by the Renewable Energy Association to guarantee a high quality experience for consumers wishing to buy or lease small-scale energy generation systems.
[4] E.g. European rule changes 'could damage AD industry', MRW (trade press), 19th January 2012

There are currently no comments for this article.

Login to comment. slider