Extreme composting in Kazakhstan

The burial of food waste was recently banned in Kazakhstan, leaving many organisations looking for solutions for how to dispose of their organic matter. An oilfield in Kazakhstan found a sustainable alternative by partnering with Macclesfield-based waste-to-energy specialist, Tidy Planet, writes Emma Love.

At the beginning of July 2021, the burial of food waste in Kazakhstan was firmly banned in an effort to reduce the country’s reliance on landfill, leaving many businesses and facilities in search of a new solution. One such facility was an oilfield in the Burlin region of Western Kazakhstan, which sought an alternative strategy for compliant disposal.

Rocket composters in Kazakhstan
Tidy Planet's Rocket composters in Kazakhstan

According to the UN’s 2019 Environmental Performance Review of Kazakhstan, 37 per cent of the country’s municipal waste is food or green waste, highlighting the importance of developing organic treatment options. In 2016, the UN totalled the country’s waste disposal sites at 4,000, with only 600 of these complying with environmental and hygiene standards.

In a bid to reduce landfill and the resulting pollution, Kazakhstan’s central government overhauled the country’s ‘Ecology Code’ to firmly ban the burial of food waste. At the Burlin oilfield, 4,000 employees work at any given time, generating 250 tonnes of food waste a year. With no local food waste processing sites, a novel solution was needed to comply with the new regulations.

This prompted the oilfield’s waste management contractor, Demtec, to construct a new composting facility nearby. Previously, the site’s canteen waste was taken to a landfill 6km away. To deliver an onsite compost solution, Demtec partnered with technology specialist Tidy Planet. The result was that four of Tidy Planet’s A900 Rocket Composters and a bespoke Dehydra Dewatering system were shipped to the Burlin oilfield in June. However, getting these to work was not going to be straightforward in this location.

This article was taken from Issue 101

Composting relies on creating the right temperature for the microbes to process the organic waste, so the fluctuating weather conditions in Kazakhstan, ranging from -40°C in winter to +40°C in the summer, presented some new challenges for Tidy Planet. Sub-zero temperatures are a particular problem for composters, as the organisms involved in the process need warmth to break down the material. A solution was found by creating a specialised building to house the Rocket composters, which prevents the internal temperature from falling below 0°C during the winter.

Huw Crampton, Sales Manager at Tidy Planet, comments that the real key to success is education: “The secret of composting is the bit before the equipment. It’s about the operator being educated to understand how to create compost.

The Dehydra Dewatering system, Huw said, was pivotal in converting any kind of food waste into easy-to-process material: “The amount of moisture we have to deal with is one of the biggest enemies in composting food waste – today’s food waste is packaged sandwiches, but tomorrow’s is chicken curry… the difference between the two is massive.

“Our customers need to be able to control and balance the moisture content. The Dehydra Dewatering system shreds the waste and squeezes the moisture out of it to make it better for composting. Kazakhstan’s national dish – Beshbarmak – includes a lot of lamb and pickled vegetables, which hold a lot of moisture. If we didn’t provide the Dewatering system, it would be very difficult to process this kind of food waste.”

Initially, local flower farms will use the oilfield’s compost. In the future, however, Demtec aims to build two large greenhouses to grow mushrooms to be sold at local shopping malls. This would involve testing the compost for quality and, using the UK’s PAS100 template, these practices will soon be used to create the quality standards for composting in Kazakhstan.