(This article was originally published on the REA’s old Organics Recycling Group’s website on 31/07/2018.  That website is no longer being updated.)

The REA’s Organics Recycling Group is pleased to confirm after discussions with the Animal and Plant Health Agency, Environment Agency and Scottish Environment Protection Agency, that the following compostable material types are allowed to be composted in a facility that does not have APHA approval under animal by-products regulations;

  • hot and cold drinks cups*,
  • lids for hot and cold drinks cups*,
  • drinks cup clutches / holders / sleeves*,
  • drinks stirrers that consist of only untreated wood without any additives,
  • drinks stirrers made of other compostable materials and/or include an additive*,
  • straws*,
  • coffee pods / capsules*,
  • used coffee grounds,
  • used loose leaf tea, and
  • used tea in tea bags*.

Where only milk and cream fit for human consumption have been in contact with the above material as part of the drink contents.  Such compostable material types and the milk/cream residue on them will not be regarded as within scope of animal by-products regulations as category 3 animal by-products. This does not apply to compostable material originating from means of transport operating internationally (outside the EU / UK).

* The compostable packaging and non-packaging items marked above with an asterisk must have a valid certificate of compliance with at least one of the following standards: EN 13432, EN 14995 or ASTM D6400. The certificate must have been issued by an independent certification body.

Composters must ensure they have appropriate waste codes in their environmental authorisation and if producing Quality Compost, that the waste matches a relevant code and description in its appendix B. In England and Wales, if a composter’s bespoke permit does not include an appropriate waste code it should be easy to get it added under an administrative variation made by the regulator, for which they make a charge.  Similarly if an environmental authorisation in Scotland does not include an appropriate waste code, it should be added under a variation made by the regulator, for which they make a charge.

Examples of facility types that could compost the certifiable compostable material types using a suitable environmental authorisation include open-air turned windrow and outdoor static aerated pile systems.

Jeremy Jacobs, Technical Director (at the time of original publication of the article), Renewable Energy Association, said:

“We welcome this opportunity for composting facilities without APHA approval to biodegrade these particular materials.  Every year 300 million tonnes of new plastic are produced, so ensuring as much as possible is recycled and reused is an urgent and critical issue if we want to tackle plastic pollution in our soils, rivers and seas. Many plastics are durable and can take 600 years to break down. Avoiding plastic through the use of compostable packaging where possible is clearly to be welcomed.

“We have worked closely with Vegware to bring about this change, their willingness to collaborate closely with the waste sector on compostability issues makes them an exemplar organisation in partnership working.

“Any composter considering composting these types of material for the first time in their facility should run a trial with the waste supplier and evaluate it before deciding whether to enter into a contract with them.”

Further information

The Organics Recycling Group was a sector group within the Renewable Energy Association and since original publication of this article has become the REA’s Organics forum.

Enquiries about animal by-products, suitable waste sources and composting process issues can be made to [email protected]

Numerous compostable packaging and non-packaging items include additives, these being substances such as pigments, inks and glues.  The standards referred to above and certifiers’ certification scheme rules cover additives, assessed as part of finished packaging and non-packaging items.

Enquiries about independent assessment and certification of compostable items can be made to Georgia Phetmanh at Renewable Energy Assurance Ltd, via [email protected] or 0207 981 0875.  Click HERE for information about REAL’s Compostable Materials Certification Scheme.  There are other certification bodies, outside the UK, who also assess and certify item conformance with one or more of the standards referred to above.

The Compost Quality Protocol sets criteria for when compost made from suitable biodegradable waste types can cease to be waste and be placed on specified markets as a product.  Such products are collectively termed Quality Composts.  Enquiries can be made to Georgia Phetmanh using the same contact details as above.