Using animal by-products at compost and biogas sites

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.

Learn more about how your site must be set up.

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.

Trial period

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.

You can learn about different categories of ABP.

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:

  • manure
  • 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
Biogas 57°C 5 hours 50mm
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.

Learn more about transporting ABPs.

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.

Complete form ABPR32 to get approval to store ABP material and email to APHA:

Updates to this page

Published 5 September 2014
Last updated 11 November 2020 + show all updates
  1. Updated 'when you must meet EU standards' section.

  2. AHVLA documents have been re-assigned to the new Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

  3. AHVLA documents have been re-assigned to the new Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

  4. First published.

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