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Safety of windrow composting questioned by British politician

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In an attack on the safety of open air windrow composting, an MP has said anaerobic digestion should be the preferred option.

During a Commons debate, MP Michael Clapham said that AD was preferable technology for recycling organics because it was “considered safe” and referred to AD as “recycling in a meaningful and productive way”.

Clapham said: “As we move towards greater recycling, we find that there is no process that has really been thought out. In my constituency, and in a number of other constituencies, we see windrow composting, where green waste is set out on a concrete base in lines to rot in the open. It is turned from time to time, and as it is turned organic dusts—or bioaerosols—tend to be released. Those bioaerosols can be quite dangerous to communities that are near at hand.”

The MP referenced research conducted by the Giessen University in Germany, which suggested that the composting process should be at least 500 m from the nearest dwellings. This contradicts Environment Agency rules that windrow composting should happen no less than 250 m from the nearest residential dwellings.

Clapham called for a move towards composting in a “vessel type system” rather than “leaving it in the open”. He called on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to consider using “a completely different process” to windrows to protect the environment and the public.
“There is a danger that unless we grasp the issue, in two or three years' time we could engulf the country in a nauseating smell that comes from recycling,” he said.

“We must grasp the nettle now and ask the Environment Agency to work with the Health and Safety Executive to decide on a process—I suggest the anaerobic digestion process—that will ensure public safety.”

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