On April 6th 2010 new environmental permitting regulations "The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010" came into force in England and Wales. The new regulations will change the way in which community composters are regulated by the Environment Agency and will replace the old waste management licenses and paragraph 12 exemptions. All community composters (including schools etc.) will eventually need to either register for a new exemption or for a permit.
The majority of existing CC groups are likely to be eligible for a T23 exemption (Aerobic composting and associated prior treatment) but this new exemption is not the same as a paragraph 12 exemption so you need to understand exactly what is and isn’t allowed before applying. You might also need to apply for additional exemptions to carry out related activities such as treating food waste in a wormery or spreading your compost on land.
All exempt projects will need to register their exemption with the Environmental Agency. This is a relatively straight forward process which is free and may be completed online.
Projects which do not meet the requirements of an exemption will need to obtain either a Standard Rules Permit or a Bespoke Permit. There are numerous charges associated with these permits.
CCN have produced a range of tools and guidance to guide you through the new legislation.
Facilities which the EA have deemed to be sufficiently low risk are eligible for a T23 composting exemption (click for more info). In order for your project to be considered sufficiently low risk you must comply with strict limits on the amount and type of waste allowed on site at anyone time.
The easiest way to determine if you are exempt is to use our T23 decision tree. This tool is a simple pdf flow chart which will guide you through a series of questions and direct you towards the exemption registration (if you are eligible) or towards more information on standard permitting if you are not :
In addition to the T23 exemption there are a number of exemptions which cover related activities such as spreading your compost, shredding material prior to composting, vermiculture and anaerobic digestion. If you plan on carrying out any of these activities you will also need to obtain the relevant exemption. Click on the links below to get information on other exemptions likely to be of greatest interest to community composters.
If you are not eligible for an exemption you will need to apply for an environmental permit. There are two types of permits – standard permits and bespoke permits. Standard permits require the permit-holder to abide by a set of standardised fixed rules. Currently, the permit most applicable to community composters is:
Bespoke permits are for facilities which do not fit under the standard rules (for example a site which has more than 60tonnes on site and is closer than 250m to other residences/work places). These permits are specific to the activity that the permit-holder is performing. Due to their specialised nature these permits are more expensive to obtain than standard permits.
Although the T23 exemption allows for the treatment of up to 10 tonnes of food, if you plan on composting kitchen waste or catering waste from premises handling meat or products of animal origin*, you will need to comply with the Animal By-Products Regulations (ABPR).
The ABPR are separate regulations from the environmental permitting regulations and are policed by Animal Health (previously the State Veterinary Service). The most important aspect of complying with the ABPR is that your composting system meets the very strict time, particle size temperature requirements of the legislation. For most community composters this will require using either an in-vessel composter or an anaerobic digester. If you want more information about the ABPR get in contact with your local Animal Health Office or CCN.
However, Regulation 16 of the APBR states that the regulations "do not apply to the composting of category 3 catering waste on the premises on which it originates provided that:
(a) the decomposed material is only applied to land at those premises
In simple terms, this means that you are exemption from the APBR if you are composting in an "on-site" situation i.e. the waste is produced on site, composted on site, and the finished compost is used on site.The principal purpose of regulation 16 was to allow home composting - but there are other situations in which the exemption can apply for example: schools, hospitals and prisons. Click here to access the DEFRA guidance on composting and ABPR (.pdf 125KB).
*the DEFRA Q&A states that "the regulations make no distinction for catering waste which is only vegetable matter...although in theory there would be no need to control purely vegetable catering waste provided its source could be verified as originating from a kitchen handling only vegan food".