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Waste. Not.

Poultry litter is rich in the nutrients required by crops to grow. Some biomass-fuelled power stations, such as those owned by Energy Power Resources Limited (EPRL), burn this “guano” and sell the ashes for use as fertiliser. In 2005, however, a new Environment Agency (EA) policy re-designated these ashes as waste. ASK was approached by EPRL’s subsidiary company, Fibrophos Ltd, to assess the scientific basis for the policy change.

The case:
Fibrophos fertiliser consists of fly ash, the light, fly-away material released during burning, and heavier bottom ash. The fly ash component, according to the EA, made Fibrophos unsafe, because it contained higher concentrations of dioxins – highly toxic compounds that accumulate in the food chain – than the bottom ash.

The EA had based their new policy on research it had commissioned on the content and environmental fate of dioxins in fertilisers. If Fibrophos Ltd had accepted the policy change, their product would have been classified as waste, and they and each of their customers would have had to apply for a waste licence. As such, the entire business of producing the fertiliser would have become uneconomical and the ash would have gone to landfill. Fibrophos applied for judicial review of the EA ruling, mainly on legal procedural grounds.

ASK’s involvement:
ASK carried out a detailed review of Lancaster University’s research. Our consultants uncovered numerous errors in the University’s reasoning; each further exaggerated the health risk posed by the fly ash.

The result:
Following presentation of ASK’s findings, the EA allowed Fibrophos Ltd to continue selling its fertiliser, provided it didn’t exceed a set limit for dioxin concentrations. Levels of dioxins in Fibrophos were already comfortably within the permitted range. It was further agreed that Fibrophos Ltd would need a waste licence, but their customers would not.

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