An overview of the Norms and Standards for Organic Waste Composting

The waste management sector for solid, liquid and hazardous waste is tightly regulated according to the National Environmental Management: Waste Act (NEM:WA) and waste classification regulations. Depending on the nature of the waste, specific on-site transport and disposal protocols should apply. For the most part, the handling, transport and disposal of waste stream requires you to have a waste management licence. This, however, is not necessarily the case for organic waste composting.

According to the Norms and Standards for Organic Waste Composting, all commercial composting activities should be registered with provincial authority. This is not a waste licence however it’s just a basic registration exercise. The Norms and Standards highlight two differences according to the volumes of organic waste being composted. Firstly, all sites that compost less than 10 tonnes per day do not require frequent site visits from provincial authority. Sites that compost in excess of 10 tonnes per day require site visits and an environmental management programme to specify the provisions taken to protect the surrounding environment.

Once a site has registered with provincial authority, the following basic composting guidelines apply:

  • Storage must occur within a unit with impermeable surfaces (concrete, clay, metal, or heavy-duty plastic).
  • Odours need to be minimised by aerating the organic waste mass inside the unit.
  • Leachate (liquid waste) needs to be minimised.
  • Storage needs to be done in a manner that prevents unwanted rodents, flies, and other pests.
  • Storage should not exceed a period of 90 days.
  • Maintain designated buffer distances to ecological sensitive (waterways, for example) areas and site boundaries where applicable.
  • Regular unit monitoring should be done to ensure that the capacity of the composting unit is not exceeded.

While these guidelines may be simple, it is always best to consult a waste management service provider before authorising an on-site composting unit. In addition, understanding the characteristics of each site in terms of organic waste generation volumes, the nature of the organic waste and proximity to ecologically significant areas will influence the type of composting unit required. 

Another key intention of these Norms and Standards is to encourage an emerging economic sector with composting. The regulatory ease in which small composting businesses can establish themselves is great to establish a strong compost supply chain. Big retail, food processing and agricultural businesses require more local and regional composting businesses to sell processed organic waste volumes. We expect to see more of this industry collaboration happening in the near future.

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