BBIA member 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, and much work by BBIA member Vegware, 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.

These may be composted where the only contamination is milk and cream fit for human consumption. These compostable material types will be exempt 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 above – except for drink stirrers that consist of only untreated wood without any additives, used coffee grounds and used loose leaf tea – 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 small 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, 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.”