Appropriate measures for the biological treatment of waste

Closed 21 Aug 2020

Opened 10 Jul 2020

Results updated 28 Jul 2021


We wanted to consult you and hear your views on our draft technical guidance; Appropriate Measures for Biowaste Treatment. Our draft guidance sets out the appropriate measures for permitted facilities that transfer biowaste or treat waste in anaerobic digestion (AD), composting and mechanical biological treatment (MBT) processes. The guidance is relevant for exempt sites.

All exemptions as detailed in Schedule 3 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR) 2016, must comply with the relevant objectives as well as the limits and conditions set out in the individual exemptions.

Relevant objectives in relation to waste are to ensure that the waste is recovered or disposed of without endangering human health and without using processes or methods which could harm the environment.

In particular without:

  • Causing risk to water, air, soil, plants or animals.
  • Causing nuisance through noise or odours.
  • Adversely affecting the countryside or places of special interest.

How we ran the consultation

We ran a formal public consultation using our online tool, Citizen Space, over a 6 week period between 10 July and 21 August 2020. We also received responses via email which we have used to help make our decision on the guidance.

We supported our consultation with trade body webinars and face to face meetings. We held one to one consultation with other interested parties like engineering consultants, insurance providers and monitoring consultants and invited them to make comments.

We used a bi-yearly regulatory forum to listen to any for further comment and queries stakeholder had. We also have engaged intensively with Waste Water Treatment industry both as a trade body (Water UK) and with individual companies.

We actively sort opinion from the Health and Safety Executive, Natural England and devolved administration. We has previously shared the draft guidance with DEFRA departments.

We asked 15 questions in total, 11 of which related to specific aspects of the draft guidance. We would like to thank all those who contributed for their time and contributions.

Summary of key findings

We received many detailed technical responses, which you can see in our consultation response document on GOV.UK. We received 29 response in total:

  • Responding as an individual 3 (10.34%)
  • Responding on behalf of an organisation or group 26 (89.66%)

The main comments related to the scope of the document in relation to smaller less complex processes and cost. Some suggested that the cost of applying the guidance and perceived requirement for retrofitting infrastructure i.e. secondary containment was excessive. Others suggested that the guidance needed to be split up into specific processes. 

There were only a few suggested additional requirements mainly concerning Anaerobic digestion such as lightening protection and an increased inspection of pressure relief and vacuum systems.  

We asked if facilities should and implement a contingency plan. The majority supported this.

We asked about obtained detailed waste information from the waste producer in relation to waste feedstock being fit for biological treatment. The majority believed this was fundamental to duty of care.  There where comments concerning the inhibition values and how they are applied to waste streams the majority of comments were from the waste water treatment industry who take trade commercial chemical wastes but offered no suggestions as to how this could be achieved without full characterisation and biodegradability tests. . We only received one alternative suggestion to assessing bespoke waste streams.

We asked if  the guidance was  clear  on the requirements to cover different storage structures?

We received 27 responses. The majority 22 (75%) stated it was not clear with only 4 (14%) stating the guidance was clear. The main issues identified where concerning existing sites and covering lagoons.  Only one respondent offered alternatives to controlling ammonia emissions.

We asked if flares for combustion of surplus biogas should be able to achieve destruction of volatile organic compounds. The majority agreed this was an appropriate measure. 

We received numerous comments regarding edits and other technical comments which we will respond to and make amendments were appropriate.

Next steps

Responses from our consultation will be used to inform amendments where appropriate and the development of the guidance. We will use the responses where appropriate to inform any amendments. We will aim to publish the final document in the late summer of 2021.

Individuals who wish to follow up their responses, or points made within this document, in more detail are welcome to contact us at

Thank you for participating in our consultation.


Currently, measures and standards for permitted facilities that take biodegradable, organic wastes for biological treatment are set out in three unpublished draft technical guidance documents (November 2013). The proposed guidance, which is being consulted on, will amalgamate and replace these guidance documents. It will include the framework for the assessment of novel waste and will be available as web guidance on the website.

The proposed guidance aims to deliver improvements in the design and operation of permitted facilities in the biological treatment of waste sector and ensure that, where relevant, appropriate measures are applied consistently. The guidance also incorporates the relevant requirements of the waste treatment BAT Conclusions publication, made under the European Industrial Emission Directive (2010/75/EU), which apply to waste installation facilities permitted under the Directive.


Why your views matter

The purpose of this consultation is to engage with relevant stakeholders to obtain their views on proposed technical guidance, which sets out appropriate measures for permitted facilities that biologically treat waste. This includes the aerobic and anaerobic treatment of biodegradable, organic wastes (for example by outdoor composting, anaerobic digestion or mechanical and biological treatment (MBT)). It also applies to treating sewage sludge using a biological process, storing recovered material (compost and digestate) and aerated lagoons and activated sludge (as a waste-water treatment).



  • Businesses
  • Statutory organisations
  • Local councils
  • Environment Agency customers
  • Trade associations and business


  • Business and industry
  • Waste
  • Permits
  • Environmental permitting