Fears aired that composting sites may scare public

Composting sites have the potential to attract as much media and public concern as energy from waste sites if health scares start emerging.

The possibility of composting sites attracting public opprobrium because of health hazards, such as through airborne contaminants, surfaced among waste industry experts at yesterday’s Environmental Services Association conference in London.

Jennie Price, chief executive of WRAP, was first to warn of possible difficulties ahead when she described the importance of work being carried out by WRAP on composting. She warned: “If we get waste-based composting standards wrong it will be fatal to the composting industry for many years to come if we get a health scare.”

Mrs Price’s comment was endorsed by Dirk Hazell, chief executive of the Environmental Services Association who hit out at “misinformed media sensationalism” which had appeared to have shifted public policy away from supporting energy from waste plants. “I think time will tell if compost faces the same attention from the media.”

The role of composting was also discussed by Steve Lee, head of waste regulation at the Environment Agency. Mr Lee warned that “maybe composting isn’t the simple low cost solution that everyone wanted it to be”.

He said the key to the composting process “is confidence, confidence by the operator and regulator and confidence by the public, the mother asking 'is it safe for me and my daughter to live next to the facility'”.

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