Skip to main content

Waste Management

Volume 461: debated on Monday 11 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what expenditure from the public purse on (a) anaerobic digestion and (b) composting of waste was in each of the last three years; what it is expected to be in each of the next three years; and if he will make a statement. (140638)

My Department is providing a range of targeted support to help increase the UK’s processing capacity for organic waste and develop markets for its end products. Projects are being delivered by DEFRA’s Waste Implementation Programme, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and the Environment Agency.


DEFRA provided £3,266,000 in 2004-05, £3,587,000 in 2005-06 and £3,479,000 in 2006-07 for delivery of WRAP’s Organics programme, which is aiming to increase the UK’s composting capacity by 23 per cent. A further £6.4 million has been allocated for 2007-08. Funding for future years has not yet been decided.

For every £1 spent within the Organics programme, an investment of approximately £2.80 has been made into the corporate industry by the private sector.

WRAP’s Home Composting Programme was allocated £7,045,000 in 2004-05, £13,085,000 in 2005-06 and £10,116,000 in 2006-07. A further £300,000 was awarded to WRAP in 2006-07 for their Food Waste Collection Trials and £110,000 has been allocated to them for their work on anaerobic digestion in 2007-08. The aim of this programme is to increase waste diversion through home composting, where local authorities are WRAP’s main delivery partners.

Anaerobic Digestion

The Waste Implementation Programme’s £30 million New Technologies Programme, has contracted with four anaerobic, aerobic and in-vessel composting organisations to provide demonstrator projects. A total of £5,917,576 has been allocated to four plants.

In addition, approximately £600,000 will be spent over the next two years on research and development projects running alongside each demonstrator.

Expenditure over the last three years has been as follows:








































1 Projects are expected to be completed in 2008-09.

Under the auspices of the Methane to Markets partnership, DEFRA hosted a high-level international workshop in November 2006. Its objective was to identify the policies needed to grow markets for anaerobic digestion in order to reduce global levels of agricultural methane emissions. We contributed £58,241.96 to the cost of the event.

DEFRA has also spent £52,000 in 2004-05 £3,000 in 2005-06 and £132,000 in 2006-07 on research and development of anaerobic digestion. Resource allocation for future research has yet to be determined, but DEFRA is committed to ongoing funding for research in this area.

Un-ringfenced funding is also provided to local authorities under the Waste Performance and Efficiency Grant, which is supporting new and more efficient ways to deliver waste reduction, increase recycling and divert waste from landfill. Local authorities are free to choose which projects they support to achieve these objectives. Local authorities received £45 million in 2005-06, £105 million in 2006-07. £110 million is allocated for 2007-08.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether the Government plans to put in place targets for the anaerobic digestion of (a) household organic waste and (b) agricultural waste; and if he will make a statement. (140645)

My Department has no plans to set specific targets for anaerobic digestion. However, we are committed to making the most of the potential of anaerobic digestion to contribute to a number of our key objectives: reducing greenhouse emissions, improving air and water quality, and a growth in the production of renewable energy.

The UK Biomass Strategy and the recently published Waste Strategy for England 2007 set out the important contribution which anaerobic digestion can make to achieving these objectives. Waste Strategy for England 2007 identifies anaerobic digestion as the preferred technology for recovering energy from waste and outlines measures to promote its greater uptake. It particularly encourages local authorities and businesses to consider using anaerobic digestion to treat separately collected food waste.

In the Energy White Paper, the Government announced that we would be consulting on the banding of the renewables obligation. Under these proposals, electricity produced by anaerobic digestion would receive two renewable obligation certificates per megawatt hours.

The Environment Agency has agreed to develop a standard for digestate in 2007-08. This will allow modern regulatory principles to be applied to the use of this material and bring certainty to when this material is considered to be “fully recovered”. This should help to facilitate the development of markets for digestate.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of (a) household organic and (b) agricultural waste was (i) aerobically and (ii) anaerobically digested in each of the last seven years; how much he expects to be digested in 2007; and if he will make a statement. (140646)

The total organic household waste collected by local authorities in England for central composting since 2000 is shown in the following table1. This is also expressed as a percentage of total household waste arisings. 2006-07 figures are not yet available. Based on an extrapolation from historical growth rates, the Waste and Resources Action Programme estimates the figure is likely to be between 2.9 million and 3.2 million tonnes.

Compost tonnages (Thousand tonnes)

As percentage of total household waste



















DEFRA does not hold specific figures for the amount of waste that is aerobically or anaerobically digested. However, a report from the Composting Association estimated that less than 1 per cent. of total waste was composted at centralised sites using anaerobic digestion. This estimate is based on a sample of compost producers which responded to the Composting Association survey.

Agricultural waste was not classified as controlled waste until the Waste Management (England and Wales) Regulations 2006 came into force on 15 May 2006, so no figures are available for management of agricultural organic waste. The Composting Association report2 estimates that on-farm composting grew by 40 per cent. from 2003-04, from 0.25 million tonnes (Mt) to 0.35 Mt, but on-farm processing still represented just 13 per cent. of the overall organic waste processed in 2004-05.

1 Municipal Waste Statistics

2 ‘The State of Composting and Biological Waste Treatment in the UK, 2004-05’

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with the Department for Communities and Local Government on the implementation of joint waste authorities; and what estimate he has made of the number of local authorities likely to adopt such schemes. (140804)

My officials and I have held a number of discussions with our counterparts in the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on proposals to allow local authorities to work together to deliver waste services, through the establishment of statutory joint waste authorities.

The Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government (Ruth Kelly) announced the Government’s intention to introduce these powers in the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill on the 22 January.

No estimate has been made by my Department on the number of local authorities likely to apply to create a joint waste authority.