BBC NEWS | Programmes | Politics Show | South West: Stink over composting.

  • The Government is introducing waste exemption licensing fees – a service that was free under the old system.

Ye gods !!! What are the 3 Short Planks thinking of now ??? so we hand back to the community do we? Lots of DIY from the community, eh? But not if we can make some money out of you poor beggars! Arrrggghh !!!

Last Updated: Thursday, 12 May, 2005, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK

South West: Stink over composting
Stephen Hall
Politics Show South West

Composting site

Will composting sites be taxed out of business?

More than half of Devon’s community composting schemes could sink without a trace when new waste regulations come into force in July.

That is the view of Devon County Council, which has supported many composting groups for more than a decade.

The Government is introducing waste exemption licensing fees – a service that was free under the old system.

It could not be greener – or simpler. Garden waste and rotting vegetables left to break down over many weeks make ideal organic soil fertiliser.

And the bigger the heap, the bigger and better the compost, resulting in community run compost schemes really mushrooming in the South West.

Uncertain future

In the past 10 years 27 community projects have been set up in Devon alone, but many of them face an uncertain future because changes to the law governing waste management.

From 1 July 2005, anyone composting more than five tonnes at any one time will have to pay a minimum of £250.

Nicky Scott is the Devon Community Composting Co-ordinator: “The site will be paying hundreds of pounds a year, just for the privilege of operating under an exemption that was free before.

“And for a project running on a knife-edge financially, it is a big burden.

“The price per tonne is way out of proportion to the product produced.”

Council support

The ‘product’ – in the case of the Chagford compost scheme – is sold in bags back to the community. For every tonne produced, Devon County Council pays £30 in recycling credits.

The local authorities are keen to support these green initiatives – it saves them money by cutting down on collection costs and they have to meet strict new landfill targets that came into force in April 2005.

But Devon County Council fears the new government waste charges will compel more than half the community compost schemes to shut down.

Ben Jennings is Senior Waste Officer for Devon County Council: It seems such a shame to me that DEFRA are contemplating bringing in a regime which kills that enthusiasm.

“It is about people giving up their free time to do something good for the community and they feel they are penalised for it.

“They see what they are doing as actually helping the nation deal with its waste materials.

“And not only are they having to put in hours of labour, someone is wanting them to pay as well.”

Voluntary imitative

The community compost site at Lympstone was the first to be set up in East Devon five years ago. It is a highly successful operation. Thirty volunteers produce some 90 tonnes of compost every year.

But when the charging system comes in, this site could well be one of the first casualties.

Lympstone would fall into the top bracket for Waste Exemption licence fees and would have to pay £480 for initial registration with DEFRA and £400 for annual renewal.

One way of avoiding the charges would be to process the compost more quickly to avoid the tonnage thresholds.

Devon County Council feels so strongly about the issue it is writing to Elliot Morley the environment minister responsible for waste management, urging him to re-think the government’s policy.

DEFRA defends

The same minister hailed the South West as a champion of re-cycling on a visit to the region last August.

Mr Morley was not available for interview about the new waste charges, but DEFRA issued a statement:

“The new system will allow composting schemes to expand and grow.

“It will enable the Environment Agency to inspect composting sites and evaluate their pollution risk.

“The new regulations will allow groups to set up temporary collection and storage facilities and remove import/export restrictions”.

We must not let this happen!

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

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