Saturday, August 18, 2012

UK Biofertiliser Certification Scheme for Digestate Success or Failure

Will a viable market for source-separated biodegradable waste derived digestate ever be established for this undoubtedly high nutrient and soil improvement value fertilizer?

The problem for all Anaerobic Digestion Plant operators in the municipal waste management/ recycling sector has always been that the digestate they produce is classified as a waste. So, it cannot effectively generate a revenue stream for them, and may need to be treated before it can be disposed of. Such treatment, which is done in a water treatment plant, is very expensive indeed.

No matter how good a fertilizer this digestate may be, anyone using it on farmland must comply with stringent waste management regulations. Such regulations, even where its use is feasible, bring high costs and also put-off potential users. After all, where would you find a supermarket that would be happy to see their vegetables described as fertilized by an industrial waste?

The big hope has been the Biofertiliser Certification Scheme, and the hope that it would eventually be extended to other digestate sources.

However, the news just published on the Let's Recycle website provides us with only the  slightest hope. And, Yes. The Biofertiliser Certification Scheme moves forward, but not dramatically.
Let's Recycle News says that the number of anaerobic digestion facilities certified under the Biofertiliser Certification Scheme (BCS) has risen to eight.

The Biofertiliser Certification Scheme implements the PAS110 Quality Protocol for Anaerobic Digestate, which was published in its final form as long ago as January 2009. It applies only for source-separated biodegradable waste derived digestate.

It was seen as a lifeline for municpal waste source-separated digestate producers, at the time.

Although it is only applicable to one type of waste, it's adoption was to at least provide a means through which this form of digestate, created from waste materials, could be productively sold as a fertilizer. Maybe in time, and once its value has been fully realised by the farmers using it, it was hoped they will be willing to start to pay for it.

But, it must be questioned whether at the current rate of uptake of the scheeme, whether the UK AD industry will ever get there...

You can find out more detail about this news by following the links below:

News in Brief

"The number of anaerobic digestion facilities certified under the Biofertiliser Certification Scheme (BCS) has risen to eight, five of which have been certified since the beginning of the year. Agrivert's Cassington AD plant was certified earlier this"
A previous early adopter of the Biofertiliser Certification Scheme was GWE Biogas, which was featured on the Renewable Energy Association Newspage:

GWE Biogas Secures REA Biofertiliser Certification - News - REA

"GWE Biogas’ Sandhill Biogas Plant has become the fourth UK AD site certified under the REA Biofertiliser Certification Scheme On 4th April 2012 GWE Biogas’ Sandhill Biogas Plant became certified for all three products under the Biofertiliser Certification Scheme: separated liquor, separated fibre, and whole digestate. The plant can process around 50,000 tonnes of food waste annually through anaerobic digestion (AD), reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill and generating a significant amount of renewable energy in the process."

Background Info on the Biofertiliser Certification Scheme for Digestate:

The Renewable Energy Association's Biofertiliser Certification Scheme (BCS), which has been created for the purpose of certifying biogas plants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland against the PAS110 and Quality Protocol (QP) for the production and use of Quality Outputs from the anaerobic digestion of source-separated biodegradable waste.
Biogas plants in Scotland are certified against the PAS110 with further conditions specified by Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).
We have no information on the number of applications or awards for the Scottish scheme.

Digestate Success or Failure?

So, should the Biofertiliser Certification Scheme be considered a success?

We understand that feedback has been received from the applicants while going through the certification process, so hopefully this will lead to some streamlining of the application and award process.

Surely, all parties have to keep working on this, as it is the only route which exists toward establishing digestate products for this type of waste derived digestate which can be sold as such, and allow the producers to get the deserved income from this material.

Meanwhile, treating digestate from the growing numbers of UK municipal organic waste digestion plants is not only expensive, but consumes large amounts of energy. One wonders whether all those environmental impact assessments, and carbon footprint assessments based upon the use of the digestate as a crop fertilizer displacing carbonaceous sourced mineral fertilizers, should not now be being rewritten?

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