What you must do

Making compost

If you make compost from waste materials or store compost made from waste materials you must have a waste management licence, or have registered an exemption with your environmental regulator.

In Northern Ireland, to make compost under an exemption you must:

  • only produce the compost at the site where the waste is produced
  • apply the compost only on the ground where it is produced
  • not keep livestock on the site.

In Scotland:

Under a paragraph 12 exemption, you may make compost, as long as you:

  • compost, on your farm, using only material arising on your farm - a maximum of 1,000 tones of material at any one time; or
  • bring to your site material produced elsewhere, to compost - a maximum of 400 tones of material at any one time.

Under a paragraph 7 exemption, you may apply compost on a farm.

In Northern ireland and in Scotland, if you compost animal by-products or catering waste you must meet the requirements of the Animal By–products Regulations. You must have an authorisation from:

  • the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland
  • your local Animal and Plant Health Agency Office (AHDO) in Scotland.

Animal by-products and food waste

DAERA: Composting and biogas in approved plants (Northern Ireland)

Scotland: Animal and Plant Health Agency: Divisional offices (scroll down to the bottom of the page)

SEPA: Waste management licensing exemptions

If your composting activities create noise, dust or odour at levels that could cause a nuisance or complaints from the surrounding community, SEPA (if your activity is under a registered exemption with SEPA) or your local environmental health department can:

  • place restrictions on your operations
  • stop your operations
  • require you to take steps to reduce the nuisance.

Noise, odour and other nuisances

Organics Recycling: An industry guide for the prevention and control of odours at biowaste processing facilities

You must ensure that waste that you handle and store on your site does not pollute rain water runoff.

Transporting and using compost

You must be a registered waste carrier or exempt from registration if you:

  • transport waste you intend to compost
  • transport compost made from waste unless the compost is classed as no longer being waste (see position statement or Quality Protocol below).

In Northern Ireland, if you normally and regularly carry your own business waste you must register with the NIEA as a lower tier waste carrier. If you transport your own construction or demolition waste you must register with NIEA as an upper tier waste carrier.

In Scotland if you normally and regularly transport waste produced by your own business, you must register with SEPA as a professional collector or transporter of waste. This is a new requirement for businesses. If you transport your own construction or demolition waste you must usually register as a waste carrier. You can register on line for this.

SEPA: Online application for Professional Collectors and Transporters of Waste

DAERA: Registration of carriers application guidance

You must have a waste management licence or have registered an exemption with your environmental regulator if you use compost made from waste materials.

Waste management licensing

Waste carriers, brokers and dealers

Good practice

In Scotland, SEPA has issued a position statement stating that compost is likely to be considered no longer waste (i.e. it is fully recovered) if it:

  • is produced for a market
  • meets the market's quality standards before the compost is blended with other wastes, materials, composts, products or additives (where the standards are designed to ensure that the compost can be used with no negative impact on the environment or human health)
  • is put to use without further treatment.

SEPA: Paragraph 12 Exemption (Composting) Technical Guidance Note (section 2.8)

In Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has issued a position statement on the regulation of composting operations following the publication of the Quality Protocol for the use of quality compost from source-segregated biodegradable waste. It clarifies when such material will be regarded as having ceased to be waste and can be used without the need for waste management controls. In summary, provided the requirements of the Quality Protocol (including the PAS100 standard) is met in full, the quality compost will no longer be regarded as waste and the waste management controls will not apply to its onward transfer and use.

NIEA: Compost and Anaerobic Digestate – Responsibilities

NIEA: Compost quality protocol

NIEA: Spent mushroom compost – waste management options

In Northern Ireland a Quality Protocol (QP) checker provides an easy, quick and cost effective way for both new and existing producers to check that they meet the QP quality requirements and any other underlying specifications. The tool creates a user report that documents performance and pinpoints any areas where improvements are needed. It can also be used as an internal audit check and will support a more robust and compliance regime. The tool covers compost and aggregates only, at present.

Northern Ireland: End of waste regulations

Further information

Northern Ireland


UK wide

Return to the menu of the Waste treatment processes environmental topic