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REA Biofertiliser Certification Scheme marks ten years with record membership

The Biofertiliser Certification Scheme (BCS) has marked the end of the tenth year since its creation by reporting that a record 67 anaerobic digestion (AD) plant operators are now signed up to the scheme.

REA Biofertiliser Certification Scheme marks ten years with record membership
The increased membership reported by the BCS, which was set up in 2007 by Renewable Energy Assurance Limited (REAL), marks a significant progression in the last few years, with membership soaring since 2011, which was the fifth year since the scheme’s inception, when just three plants participated.

The BCS assures the quality of AD processes and the resulting nutrient-rich digestate, which is then used as a biofertiliser, and is based on the British Standards Institution (BSI) PAS 110 standard for AD operations. The AD process also produces biogas, which many operators use to generate clean energy and can guarantee quality and origin through the green Gas Certification Scheme (GGCS).

Due to digestate’s application in agriculture, it is essential that farmers, land managers, farm assurance schemes, retailers and consumers can be certain that digestate used on farmland is safe and of good quality.

Looking back on the past decade, David Collins, former Senior Biogas Advisor to the Renewable Energy Association (REA), of which REAL is a subsidiary, added: “When REAL set up the Biofertiliser Certification Scheme, it was to give confidence to farmers and other users that food grown on soil, using quality digestate as a fertiliser, was safe for consumption and compliant with the stringent demands of their buyers. That hard won trust from an initially sceptical market was built gradually through rigorous third party inspection and a well-run scheme.

Cheaper compromises in certification have always been available but while trust takes years to build, breaches in quality have an immediate and disastrous effect across the entire industry.”

The BCS seeks to provide quality guarantees to stakeholders by certifying that the production process is appropriate and well-managed, that only permitted feedstocks are used in the production and that the resulting digestate has been produced in a hygienic manner.

REA Biofertiliser Certification Scheme marks ten years with record membership
“This holiday season we’re celebrating the scheme’s tenth anniversary, and in that decade the AD market has changed completely.” said Virginia Graham, Chief Executive of REAL. “It has been a privilege to see the growth of a successful AD industry assisted by a successful quality assurance scheme that provides reliable routes to market for digestate.

“Throughout the life of the BCS we have ensured that the scheme is robust by working closely with UKAS, certification bodies and laboratories. We look forward to driving the development of the BCS further as this thriving industry continues to grow and evolve.”

Bryan Lewens, a FACTS and WAMITAB Qualified Landspreading Advisor, commented: “I managed the use of digestate on land for agricultural benefit for 12 years and was highly appreciative of the efforts that went into developing and then reviewing the PAS110/ADQP.

“Managing digestate under ‘waste regulations’ was costly and complicated to administer. The ability to market digestate as a product that met a standard gave farmers added confidence to use digestate as a fertiliser. The work done by WRAP in providing guidance on its use and the comprehensive risk assessments carried out on a wide range of hazards has also been a great help in allaying any concerns farmers may have had.”

For more information on the BCS, visit the scheme’s website.    

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