The UK’s anaerobic digestion (AD) industry has welcomed a target from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for all of England’s soils to be “managed sustainably” by 2030, calling it “an important step in the right direction” towards restoring the UK’s soils.
Defra’s 25-year environment plan, published this morning, calls for “good nutrient management practices” in soil management and pledges to work with industry “to encourage the use of low emissions fertiliser”. It also pledges to create “meaningful metrics” to assess soil improvements and to “develop cost-effective and innovative ways to monitor soil at farm and national level”.
Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive of the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA), said:
“The health of the UK’s soils is critical to allowing us to grow the food we need to feed our families. Defra’s aim to restore soil sustainability in England is an important step in the right direction, and the AD industry can play a key role in this through producing natural, low-emission biofertiliser in the form of digestate, which is high in vital nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.
“The government now needs to provide meaningful incentives for farmers to buy and use biofertilisers that help to restore soils and reduce emissions from agriculture. Providing support for AD plants, which produce these digestate-derived biofertilisers, is therefore essential.”
Despite the environment plan covering resource efficiency and waste, there were no new commitments on separate food waste collections, which as many as half of local authorities in England still do not offer to residents. AD plants recycle unavoidable and inedible food waste into renewable heat and power, low-carbon transport fuel, and biofertiliser, and have the potential to meet 30% of the UK’s domestic gas or electricity demand. Evidence from Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, which all have mandatory food waste collections, also shows that households and businesses that separate food waste tend to produce less waste due to greater awareness.
Charlotte Morton added:
“Despite rightly identifying recycling food waste as a ‘key priority’ in today’s plan, Defra’s failure to commit to rolling out mandatory separate food waste collections in England is a missed opportunity to reduce food waste levels and allow AD plants to produce the renewable energy, transport fuel, and biofertilisers that we as a country desperately need.
“With European Union members having recently committed to mandatory separate collection of biowaste (i.e. food waste) by 2025 and the UK devolved administrations already having rolled out such collections, England is lagging behind and losing out as a result. The consensus around the need for separate food waste collections in England is building, so we hope to see more concrete policies to support this development in the government’s forthcoming Resources & Waste Strategy.”