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Anaerobic Digestion: Pollution

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 185307, tabled on 21 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what discussions his Department has had with the Welsh Government to tackle the movement of digestate from anaerobic digestion plants between catchment areas in England and Wales.

Answered on

26 April 2021

Defra is committed to tackling the harm caused from waste material spread to land as fertiliser where this is not applied in accordance with good agricultural practice. There are currently no plans to regulate the movement of phosphate-rich material between catchment areas. However, the Farming Rules for Water regulations require spreading to land in England to be done in ways that manage the risk of diffuse pollution and any spreading of this material must be planned in line with soil and crop need.

On the moving of resulting digestate from anaerobic digestion plants, while there is no prohibition on movement of digestate between catchments, its application is regulated by the Farming Rules for Water and, where applicable, the Nitrates Pollution Prevention Regulations in England. The Environment Agency has reviewed the data information on the digestate market place and volumes of digestate currently and has put measures such as increasing reporting and surveillance on permitted sites and requiring the permitted site to demonstrate contingency plans where they may not be able to use or deploy digestate (where doing so would breach regulations). The Environment Agency is also undertaking a review of the anaerobic digestate quality protocol which is considering land pressures and the future market for digestate.

We are also working across Government on further policy solutions to existing issues with digestate spreading, including its impact on air and water quality.

I accept that there is more to be done. As this is a devolved matter, I, and officials in my department, remain engaged with our Welsh counterparts to align efforts on cross-border pollution issues and monitor progress closely.