Quality Management Systems’ support for composting sites in Wales

30th March 2017

Introduction

Currently, over 100,000 tonnes of biodegradable material is composted every year in Wales.  Robust management systems are central to the production of quality compost – whether that compost is subsequently applied to land as a waste (typically) via an Environmental Permit or as a PAS 100 product accredited by the Compost Certification Scheme (CCS).  This project examined the implementation of quality management systems (QMS) at composting sites across Wales, to understand whether they support the consistent production of compost to meet market requirements. It concluded that compost is produced to an appropriate quality for markets in Wales but also recommends that sites could make minor changes to improve their current QMS.  In addition the project identified opportunities for the CCS to further to support the industry.

Executive summary

Robust management systems are central to the production of quality compost – whether that compost is subsequently applied to land as a waste (typically) via an Environmental Permit or as a product accredited by the Compost Certification Scheme (CCS). This project examined the implementation of quality management systems (QMS) at composting sites across Wales, to understand whether they supported the consistent production of compost that met market requirements.

Through a process of document review, site visits and visual assessments of composting processes, we concluded that compost is of appropriate quality for its intended markets in Wales. However, certain issues were identified. The most important of these was that QMS documentation at some sites was only retained for auditing purposes and was not used as the basis for running the site. The layout and usability of the various QMS documents – especially the Hazard Analysis and Critical control points (HACCP) plan and Site operating procedures (SOPs) – also tended to be poor, although based on templates previously provided by REAL.

The requirement to implement a QMS is intended to ensure that compost of the required quality is consistently produced. Such a system should benefit rather than hinder compost producers, since it applies a logic and process flow that allows any problems with compost quality to be readily identified and remedied. However, the fundamental operations at a composting facility are relatively straightforward, and the QMS as required by the CCS could be considered overly onerous, potentially contributing to the observed separation between documented procedures and actual site operations.

Within the current CCS framework, site operators are required to play a key role in development of quality management systems, and the scheme owners (REAL) should consider how this requirement can be more robustly implemented.

Other issues related to the content of PAS100, and particularly to the HACCP requirements – which could be described as misleading or incorrect. This led to errors in templates provided by REAL for scheme members, which were then propagated to almost all composting sites (the templates have subsequently been withdrawn). At a small number of facilities there were more significant (process) issues, primarily caused by a lack of operational space on site.