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Compost Use in Agriculture

The implications of the Landfill Directive on disposal of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW), and the potential benefit of composted BMW to agriculture

Project aim

The overall aim of the project was both to demonstrate agricultural benefit of spreading composted BMW to land and to highlight potential problems. Detailed characterisation and proximate analysis has been performed on a range of different BMW composts.

This information has enabled us to assess the suitability of BMW composts for land disposal, taking into account:

  • the role as a soil conditioner for increasing soil organic matter;
  • the nutrient content and replacement value as fertiliser;
  • any detrimental effect of heavy metal content.

This project provides information as to the suitability of composted BMW for use in agriculture, and hence allow for a realistic assessment of the volume of BMW that can safely and beneficially be spread to land. The contribution is both in the diversion of biodegradable materials away from landfill, reducing fertiliser inputs to agricultural systems, and providing a source of additional organic matter.


A range of different types of composted BMW were selected from pilot composting operations within the UK. Some composts were produced from source segregated waste such as kitchen waste and green waste, and others from mixed waste. The composts were analysed using the British Standard PAS 100 methods.

Field trial

A field trial was conducted at Wellesbourne. A range of composts at varying rates were incorporated into agricultural soils to examine the effect, either beneficial or harmful, on a test crop of spring barley.

Compost workshop

A workshop took place on 14th September 2005 to present the major findings of the project. Report.

This project was funded by the ONYX Environmental Trust through the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme.

The project team members are Mary Dimambro, Clive Rahn and Rob Lillywhite.

A number of UK compost companies agreed to supply compost for the project.