Review of current European practice of MBT compost-like output use and application to land in relation to environmental protection

Mechanical-Biological Treatment (MBT) is often a key element in National Strategies for the diversion of Biodegradable Municipal Waste (BMW) from landfill. Unlike incineration, it provides flexibility in the system, which is important in those Member States where the system will have to undergo widespread changes in the amount and quality of residual waste that is dealt with.

The main objectives of this review were to describe current EU practice for the production, regulation and use of compost-like outputs from MBT plants, with specific reference to their application to land. A further objective was to assess national differences in approaches across the EU. Product (compost)-orientated MBT is practiced on a large scale in France, Spain, Portugal, Poland, parts of Italy and Turkey. Several factors are thought to have influenced this development, not least Southern Europe’s lower soil organic content and desertification issues. However, after an initial interest in composting Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), there appears to have been a move away from producing a compost end-product in many countries because of uncertainties about the economic market for this output.

Whilst the general opinion is that composts from source segregated materials are likely to make higher quality composts, there still remains interest in composting mechanically segregated MSW feedstocks as part of a MBT process. However, there is currently no uniform system for setting compost standards across the EU and, although most countries differentiate between two compost classes, limit values for acceptable levels of contaminants can differ quite significantly from one country to another.