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James Heyes & Sons Green Waste Recycling


On the reclaimed peat mosslands of Merseyside and West Lancashire, a generations old family farm is using the green wastes from the likes of multinational food companies down to small charities to create a top quality organic compost - and with minimal carbon footprint. Environment Times' Editor Duncan Ashcroft went to visit...

web mossborough wide viewRetired 82 year old farmer James Heyes proudly points out the steam arising from a huge mound of green waste compost in its final stages before being ploughed into the farm's extensive acres. The land nudges up to Kirkby and Rainford, within sight of St Helens and Liverpool, and is all now managed by his sons William and James.

The steam, which appears vividly in certain temperature and moisture conditions, plays one of the vital roles in transforming green throw-outs ranging from tea filter dust from multinationals to conifer prunings delivered in a trailer from the local scout troop.

The composting side to the farm business at historic Mossborough Hall Farm is called James Heyes and Sons Green Waste Recycling. It began in 1995, being added to the established Heyes' farming practices as tenants at Mossborough to the Earl of Derby of nearby Knowsley Hall.

The Heyes family themselves have very deep farming roots in the area, being Bickerstaffe-based tenants to the Earls of Derby since at least the 1700s, but it was in 1941 that they moved a couple of miles along the Old Coach Road and took on the larger Mossborough Hall Farm from their cousin Richard.

James' father, himself named James, receiving an MBE for services to agriculture for conversion of Reed's Moss peat bogland into badly needed food growing acres, as the second World War submarine hounding of merchant shipping into Liverpool port began to bite.

web mossborough heap  riddlerSon William Heyes, in his 50s, showed me around the farm's busy composting operations - the heaps all well organised on a large concrete yard that directs runoff to a couple of storage pond lagoons well loved by the local mallards. William pointed out the value of returning this water to the green waste heaps, especially in dry weather, because it contains valuable microbes that assist in the composting process.

The site has a waste management licence authorised by the Environment Agency under Part II of the Environmental Protection Act. It is capable of accepting up to 25,000 tonnes per year of non-hazardous organic wastes ranging from the following: agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, forestry, food preparation and processing, wood processing, pulp, paper and cardboard packaging, municipal wastes from parks, gardens, markets and via waste management facilities.

In the early days, William and his father recall that plastic mixed in the organic wastes to process was a big problem, with extra labour needed to pick it out - but over the years they have seen a vast improvement with plastic greatly reduced in the municipal waste from the public.

web mossborough sprout fieldThe composting cycle from initial delivery over the automatic weighbridge, whether that be from a man with a van full of branches or a multinational's lorryload of factory flushed cocoa, takes 12 weeks to become a valuable soil product certified by the Composting Association achieving an annual PAS 100 Certificate of Compliance.

But it is the use of the final compost onto the 1,500 acres of Heyes farmed land that makes their composting operation uniquely rare.

As they point out on their informative website - "why help the environment by having your green waste recycled, only for the compost to then be driven for use elsewhere?" Their operation definitely gets a big low carbon footprint tick!

To produce their tasty potatoes, sprouts, and the grass for cattle grazing, the compost acts as a soil conditioner adding fibre and structure. It also replaces the need for artificial fertilisers, giving a pollution-free advantage as the residue from the compost doesn't leach from the land and bring ecosystem spoiling nutrients into the waterways in the same way that artificial fertiliser sometimes can.

Before I left the site, William presented me with a 25kg sack of Wilja potatoes, and apart from the fact they taste great particularly as jackets or mash - I now appreciate how they have been grown in a product that saves waste from entering methane-belching landfill, has a low carbon footprint and reduces waterway pollution.