The ninth annual Compost Awareness Week (CAW) will be celebrated nationwide from 3rd to 9th May. CAW aims to increase awareness and highlight the many benefits and applications of quality compost, as well as home composting. The increased availability of commercially produced compost represents an opportunity for landscapers as Paul Mathers, Programme Manager for Landscape and Regeneration at WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) explains…
As new commercial applications for compost continue to be identified and explored, landscapers are becoming aware of how and when to incorporate the use of quality compost in their projects.
For example, as it contains a wide range of essential nutrients and minerals, compost can be a vital component in programmes of soil improvement or manufacture where the creation of a stable, consistent and reliable growing medium is required. In a major trial being conducted at Polkemmet in the Scottish Heartlands, compost manufactured to the BSI PAS 100 specification is being used to create sustainable, cost effective topsoil on the site of a former mining operation. The regenerated site will play host to two championship level golf courses and a mixed use residential, commercial and leisure development over more than 470 hectares.
The cost savings and environmental benefits being realised make equally persuasive arguments. In using on site colliery waste and quality compost to manufacture the soil, lorry movements are minimised and raw material costs saved. In total, site owner Ecosse Regeneration is producing a cost saving over imported topsoil of £10 per tonne, with the costs for the manufactured topsoil calculated at just £7.22 per tonne. With more than 140,000 tonnes of compost being used on the site over the course of the next three years, the cost savings soon add up.
Brownfield regeneration aside, new opportunities for compost continue to be explored. WRAP has recently announced a series of new trials that will demonstrate the technical, financial and environmental benefits of specifying and using BSI PAS 100 compost in a range of new landscaping applications.
One emerging area is the use of compost in Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS), which are now seen as an integral part of commercial and residential construction projects. With rainwater control such a contentious and important issue, landscapers are once again at the forefront of innovation and driving forward new thinking on the development of our urban and rural environments.
With flooding experienced across the UK in the last couple of years, unpredictable weather and heavy rainfall is now recognised as a potential problem for all built environments. Finding ways to control and reduce rainwater run off and the threat of flash flooding is therefore a key concern. In the US, using small scale ‘rain gardens’ in commercial developments are commonplace, and they often rely on compost to provide a stable, reliable and consistent base that can absorb and hold large quantities of water. In this new series of trials, compost produced to the BSI PAS 100 specification will be used in soft landscaping, as a form of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS). The results will help to demonstrate the effectiveness of quality compost and provide evidence necessary to see greater uptake of a more environmentally sustainable and cost effective approach to drainage.
Similarly, another trial conducted in partnership with Vital Earth, Sheffield University’s Green Roof Centre and Harper Adams Agricultural College will look at green roofs in urban areas and aims to offer guidance on another potential application for quality compost. The trial will demonstrate how landscapers can use BSI PAS 100 compost to establish vegetated roof surfaces that can effectively control rain water. It has been estimated by Living Roofs.org that green roofs can retain between 70 and 80% of rainfall in the summer and 25 and 40% in the winter. The concept is not a new one – but is still in its infancy here in the UK – and as its popularity increases it is hoped the trials being conducted can prove that the use of compost can be a vital ingredient in their establishment.
The theme for this year’s Compost Awareness Week is ‘Food for thought’ so with such a wide range of applications for quality compost now becoming available to landscapers it really is a good time to be thinking about how you can use this unique, versatile product in your next project.
For more information on BSI PAS 100 compost and WRAP’s new series of trials visit www.wrap.org.uk/composting or call Paul Mathers on 01295 817899.