Composting municipal waste in the UK: some lessons from Europe

Slater, R.A. and Frederickson, J. (2001). Composting municipal waste in the UK: some lessons from Europe. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 32(3-4) pp. 359–374.



Composting is an important element in sustainable waste management for the UK and could potentially have a vital role to play in meeting the obligations of the Landfill Directive. This paper evaluates the current state of the composting industry in the UK using the survey data from 1999 and compares its performance and profile with other countries in Europe. The UK industry profile shows that most waste (92%) is managed by relatively small, centralised sites which typically employ unsophisticated technology. These centralised sites also tend to compost green (garden) waste almost exclusively and this material is usually obtained from collection at civic amenity sites. In relation to the longer-term requirements of the Landfill Directive, it would appear that continued reliance on composting green waste would not be sufficient to meet the targets. Major structural changes will be needed if the industry is to meet the challenges ahead and kerbside collection and composting of both kitchen and green waste will probably have an important role to play. The results from the 1999 survey of composting also suggest that there is a renewed interest in using mechanical and biological treatment to process municipal solid waste directly. After several years of sustained growth, it is clear that the UK composting industry is at a crucial stage in its development. It is the opinion of the authors that the experience of the more advanced composting countries in Europe should be used as a model for the continued development of the UK industry in order to deliver sustainable waste management in the longer term.

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