Agriculture is the largest market sector for both compost and digestate and is thought to account for almost 50% of the compost produced. Given the loss of organic matter from arable soils, this represents a significant contribution towards helping improve Europe’s soils.
If the estimated 15.8 million tonnes of compost and digestate were to be spread onto agricultural land at a typical rate of 30 tonnes per hectare this would cover 528 thousand hectares of land or 0.7% of the total arable land across all 18 countries. As there is a total of 74.3 million hectares of arable land across these 18 countries, this demonstrates that there is an adequate landbank available.
Sustainable Use of Compost in Growing Media
Across Europe, there is also growing awareness about the negative effects of peat extraction and its use in horticultural growing media. Norway has recently set a national target to phase out the use of peat in amateur growing media by 2025 and professional horticulture by 2030. As mature, quality compost can be used at between 20-40% (v/v) in growing media mixes, this presents a valuable marketing opportunity for compost manufacturers. ECN has published its ‘Specification for the Use of Quality Compost in Growing Media’ as part of its Quality Assurance Scheme (the ECN-QAS), to assist manufacturers and producers specify and manufacture peat free/reduced growing media blends.