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Recycling organic materials on land

We are all responsible for protecting and managing the soil. Through nutrient management, advice and crop after care we help improve the way people manage the soil to protect people's health and the environment. We believe that recycling organic material on land is important for sustainable development and can often be the best choice for the environment.

The issues

A wide range of organic materials are used to improve soil condition and nutrient status in agriculture, land restoration, landscaping and in domestic gardens. Organic waste materials must be used properly to meet the specific requirements of the site and it's land use and to avoid harming people's health or the environment, including soil.

  • Organic material has long been used on land and there should be controls in place to protect people's health and the environment.
  • Many types of waste (animal manure and slurry, biosolids [sewage sludge], compost, waste from food processing and industrial waste such as paper pulp or gypsum) can benefit the soil.
  • The amount of organic material available for recycling on land is increasing because of strict targets to reduce the amount of biodegradable material going to landfill, better recycling facilities, more composting of biodegradable waste and more biosolids being produced.
  • Adding organic materials can benefit the soil in many ways; providing nutrients, stabilising the soil and improving its structure, which reduces the risk of soil erosion, improves pH, increases the soil's capacity to hold water (which helps to reduce flood risk) and locks carbon into the soil.
  • Applying organic matter to the land reduces the need for inorganic fertilisers. These are either mined from natural resources or manufactured in energy intensive processes. By replacing inorganic fertilisers with organic material we reduce the impact from mining and the energy requirements needed to supply nutrients for crop growth, which in turn reduces carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change.
  • As with the use of inorganic fertilisers, nutrients in organic materials have the potential to cause water pollution and require management and monitoring.
  • There may also be many contaminants that need to be considered when deciding whether or not to spread organic materials on the land. These should also be taken into account when choosing where this material should be spread, the amount used and the precautions needed to minimise risk, OCAE manage this risk on behalf of our clients.
  • Inorganic fertilisers are manufactured to a set of Fertiliser Regulations, which place controls on their composition. Organic materials spread on land are not subject to strict controls on nutrient and contaminant content so it can be difficult to match the application rates to the requirement of the growing crops, by providing crop management as part of our consultancy role we manage application rates to the best possible standards.
  • Some food manufacturers and buyers may be concerned about the impact that a negative public perception of organic by-product could have on their businesses. This applies in particular to waste derived materials such as sewage sludge and compost. Management is key to customer assurance, protecting landbanks and providing farmers with the security they need to use organic materials.