Around 500 anaerobic digestion (AD) developments are in the pipeline, to potentially double or triple the size of the sector between 2014 and 2019, a WRAP reports has found, but stresses this level of deployment is highly dependent on the policy landscape, reviewing of renewable energy incentives and access to suitable feedstocks.
WRAP has published its latest annual “Organics Recycling Industry Status Report”, an in-depth analysis of both anaerobic digestion and composting as possible routes of organics recycling.
The report also found the majority of feedstock processed in 2014 was food waste (1.8m tonnes, 35%), followed by crops (1.4m tonnes, 26%), other waste (1.1m tonnes, 21%), manure/slurry (0.74m tonnes, 14%), and crop waste (0.21m tonnes, 4%).
However, feedstocks varied markedly between nations, with Scotland and Wales processing more “other wastes” (particularly industrial) and less crops, and Northern Ireland using more crops and manure, compared to England.
Local authorities sent 314,516 tonnes of food waste to AD facilities in the UK; 191,830 tonnes in England, 52,686 tonnes in Wales in 2014/15, and 70,000 tonnes in Scotland in 2014.
An estimated 4.76m tonnes of food waste are contained in domestic waste (WRAP Synthesis of Food Waste Compositional Data, 2014/15); accounting for the 314,516 tonnes already processed through AD as stated above, this leaves a major potential untapped feedstock source equating to around 4.45m tonnes per year, WRAP says. This means there is great potential to increase food waste collections, to help the AD industry grow.
It is estimated that 4.5m tonnes of digestate was produced in 2014, based on declared input volumes and typical conversion efficiencies. This was a 56% rise from 2013, where 2.89m tonnes of digestate was estimated to be produced.
The compost sector continues to grow albeit at a steadier rate, from 271 permitted sites in 2012, to 310 in 2014 and 330 in 2015, the report found.
There were 5.85m tonnes of organic material received by composting facilities in 2012, and 5.92m tonnes input in 2014.
Access to higher value compost markets in the UK has grown, as Quality Compost Certification continues to rise. Over half of all permitted sites achieved PAS100 accreditation in 2014, increasing from 84 sites in 2008 (47% of total sites), to 180 sites in 2014 (51% of total sites).
Uptake of the PAS100 scheme is markedly better in Scotland and Northern Ireland (100% uptake), compared to England and Wales (50% of sites), mostly due to recycling targets, development of end markets and product value recognition.
The composting industry has a growing workforce, with an estimated 1,434 jobs in 2014, compared to 1,184 in 2009.