New £8m composting plant opens in Derbyshire

21 November 2006

A Derbyshire composting company is hoping to sell its first batch of compost next year after opening a new £8 million "flagship" in-vessel composting facility in Ashbourne.

Speaking to today, Matlock-based firm Vital Earth Ltd said that the 60,000 tonne capacity a year facility would be supplying garden centres from February.

A composting vessel is emptied at the new Vital Earth composting site in Ashbourne, before material is matured for up to eight weeks
The Ashbourne development, which received £507,000 from the Waste and Resources Action Programme, is Vital Earth's second UK composting facility after its sister site near Market Drayton in Shropshire, which uses identical technology to treat around 11,000 tonnes of waste a year.

Vital Earth's managing director Richard Cramp said: "With the opening of this plant, we have the capacity to make a real difference to both the environment and the gardening market, manufacturing up to 150,000 cubic metres of top quality compost that is 100% recycled, 100% peat free and undoubtedly the greenest growing medium on the market."

At the Ashfield Industrial Estate site, Vital Earth takes green and meat-inclusive waste from brown bins collected by Derby City, South Derbyshire and Derbyshire Dales councils under a 10-year contract.

Waste is checked, shredded and processed using in-vessel technology designed by Vital Earth, which is part of the Longcliffe Group, to give "more control" over the process.

The organic material is heated within the in-vessel facility twice to 65 degrees for two days to meet standards set for food waste treatment under Animal By-Product Regulations. Compost is then matured for 7-8 weeks before being blended into products including peat-free "Genie" compost.

News of the opening has been welcomed by Derby City council, who began collections of food and green waste in September.

Cllr Alan Grave, cabinet member for leisure and direct services, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to channel our green waste through the new Vital Earth operation. It is a flagship development that meets every environmental objective from the Government’s point of view. We are reducing landfill, protecting the environment and facilitating the growth of recycled product use in the UK."

The Ashbourne facility is the first of two in-vessel facilities planned for Derbyshire, following an announcement in August that Biffa is developing a £3 million in-vessel facility at Etwall with the help of more WRAP funding (see story).

In August, South Derbyshire claimed that it had decided to use Biffa's facility tp process its green waste from next year.

Related links:
Recycling in South Derbyshire
Derby city council
WRAP composting support
However, Vital Earth said that Biffa only received WRAP funding on condition that their development did not interfere with Vital Earth's contract.

Speaking to, Vital Earth's marketing director Malcolm Rich, said: "All I know is that we are a year into a ten year contract with South Derbyshire council."