Composting is nature’s way of recycling organic waste into valuable fertiliser. It is a natural biological process in which microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi break down organic matter. Since approximately 45-55% of the waste stream is organic matter, composting plays a significant role in today’s waste treatment.

Composting needs to be well-controlled to optimise the compost quality and to avoid undesirable odours or germs. An optimal composting process will also reduce the volume and weight of organic waste significantly as the composting process converts much of the biodegradable component to gaseous carbon dioxide. The effectiveness of the composting process is dependent upon the environmental conditions present within the composting system, i.e., oxygen, temperature, moisture, material disturbance, organic matter and the size and activity of microbial populations.

Agricultural composting is conducted in settings where the waste is generated onsite by the production and processing of farm or agricultural products. The starting waste material from farms is more homogeneous and has a higher percentage of organic waste than household recycled waste.The final quality of such compost can be sufficiently high for use as a fertilizer not only on the farm where it has been produced, but also for its commercialisation.

While the main biological and chemical parameters affecting the composting process are well known, the technological solutions available for monitoring and controlling the process are very limited. Two of these essential parameters, temperature and moisture in the core of the material that is being composted, are currently only measured from time to time and in a number of very limited points. Moreover, temperature is usually measured by manually inserting a probe, and the moisture is measured by extracting samples that need to be analysed in a laboratory.

There is a clear need to provide composting operators with improved process control technology, especially in view of increasingly stringent and evolving regulations. Such regulations, along with market demands for high quality, stable and safe composting are clear drivers for bridging the current gaps in compost monitoring and control technology.

DURAWOOD is a 2 year R&D Project that is being funded by EC´s Seventh Framework

Programme and more specifically under the “Research for SMEs” sub-programme.

The European wood processing industry is a vital contributor to the sustainability of the

European forest cluster that gives employment to some 3.5 million people and generates

an annual turnover in the region of €400 billion.