How to set up a compost or biogas site, UK and EU standards explained, and alternative treatment methods for animal by-products (ABPs).
Applies to England, Scotland and Wales
Get your site approved
You need approval from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to run a compost or biogas site. Complete form ABPR1 to get approval to operate.
Getting a hub and pod site approved
If you intend to use one site for pasteurisation and another for anaerobic digestion, you must get both sites approved.
The site where you collect and pasteurise materials is known as the hub - complete form ABPR33 to get a hub site approved.
The site you use for anaerobic digestion is known as the pod - complete form ABPR1 to get a pod site approved.
Getting your site validated
After applying for approval, you must validate each biogas or composting system with the APHA.
APHA inspectors will visit your site and check that:
- your machinery and set-ups meet legal requirements
- your site operator understands how you’ll control risks and how the plant works
You’ll have to show them a plan for how you intend to make sure your site operates legally.
Contact APHA to start the validation process.
You must keep any compost or digestate you produce during the validation period at your factory, or at a storage facility.
You can’t sell or use your product until you have 4 clear validation tests.
Testing samples for bacteria during validation
During validation you must send samples of your compost or digestate for laboratory testing to check if your treatment is removing bacteria.
You must test for Salmonella and either E.coli or Enterococcaceae.
How often to take samples
Take samples from each batch of compost or digestate you produce, if you process in batches.
Take samples once a week if you use a continuous processing method.
Find out more about laboratory testing requirements for ABPs including details of how and when to take samples and where to send them for testing.
Requirements to pass validation
Your samples must pass 12 consecutive tests for each bacteria before your site is validated.
If one of your samples fails a test during validation, you must start the validation process again.
You can define how many days production constitutes a batch - but if a batch fails a test you will have to reprocess it.
You must submit samples from 12 batches during the trial period.
You must extend the trial period beyond 12 batches if you don’t process enough batches to submit 12 samples in 12 weeks.
If one of your samples fails a test during the 12 week trial period, you must start the trial period again.
You must have 4 clear test results from your first 4 batches before you can start to sell your product, on a batch by batch basis.
If a batch fails you must start the trial period again from week 1, and you will not be allowed to sell until 4 consecutive batches pass.
Which standards apply to your site?
You’ll have to meet either EU or UK composting and biogas standards at your site, depending on which category of ABPs you use.
When you must meet EU standards
Your site must operate to EU standards if it treats:
- category 3 ABPs that are not catering waste (in addition to or without catering waste)
- category 2 ABPs that has first been pressure rendered at an approved rendering site
- permitted category 2 materials without prior processing for manure, digestive tract and its content, milk, milk-based products, colostrum, eggs and egg products
Mechanical biological treatment (MBT) plants that make compost from catering waste for use on land or over landfill must also meet EU standards.
If your MBT plant treats materials before they are incinerated or sent to landfill, no controls will apply.
EU standards explained
Under EU standards, your factory must:
- treat ABPs at 70°C for 1 hour with a maximum particle size of 12mm
- sterilise category 2 ABPs at 133°C with 3 bar pressure, for 20 minutes at an approved plant, prior to treatment - permitted category 2 materials do not require prior pressure sterilisation
- compost in a closed vessel system or anaerobically digest in enclosed digestion tanks approved (as part of your site approval) by APHA
- include a pasteurisation stage in anaerobic digestion of category 3 ABPs
When you can meet UK standards
Your site can operate to UK standards if all you treat is category 3 catering waste and the following category 2 ABPs:
- digestive tract content
- dairy products or colostrum
- eggs or egg products
UK standards explained
This table shows the time and temperature requirements you must follow for treating ABPs, as well as particle size rules, under UK standards:
|System||Minimum temp||Minimum time at minimum temp||Maximum particle size|
|Composting (closed reactor)||60°C||2 days||400mm|
|Composting (closed reactor) or biogas||70°C||1 hour||60mm|
|Composting (housed windrow)||60°C||8 days (during which windrow must be turned at least 3 times, at no less than 2 day intervals)||400mm|
Using external heat
If your composting or biogas site is in England or Wales, you can use external heat to treat ABPs, but you must follow the UK time and temperature requirements.
In composting plants, the operator must be able to prove to inspectors that the majority of the heat is coming from within the system.
UK standards for catering waste
If your biogas or compost factory is operating under UK standards, the way you must treat catering waste depends on whether it’s meat-excluded, or non-meat-excluded.
Waste is meat-excluded if measures have been taken at source to keep it away from meat.
To be considered meat-excluded, it must also be kept separate after collection and at all stages of transport.
Biogas sites and catering waste
Biogas sites must either:
- treat only meat-excluded catering waste
- store non-meat-excluded catering waste for 18 days after treatment
Composting sites and catering waste
Composting sites must compost:
- meat-excluded catering waste in one stage, then store the material for 18 days
- non-meat-excluded catering waste in 2 stages, the first stage in a closed vessel
If you are composting packaging, it’s non-meat-excluded if it’s contaminated with blood or other ABPs.
Sampling during normal operating
During normal operating, you must continue to take samples. For each bacteria you need to test for, take either:
- a sample from 1 in every 4 batches of compost or digestate you produce
- 1 sample of compost or digestate a month
You can chose the option that is less frequent, but you must take at least 1 sample a quarter, even if you don’t process 4 batches in a particular quarter.
You must immediately tell APHA if one of your samples fails a test.
Other treatment methods (alternative transformation)
If you can prove through testing that your end product is safe, you may be able to treat ABPs using your own processing paramaters instead of those that meet UK or EU standards.
Talk to APHA to find out what you need to do to have your parameters validated and approved.
Storing compost or digestate
You don’t need approval to store compost or digestate at the site where it’s produced or where it’s going to be used.
If you’re storing finished product anywhere other than where it was produced or where it’s going to be used, the storage site must be approved to store ABP material.