School of History, Classics and Archaeology


Green Waste and Archaeological Geophysics

Students on site in Somerset for the geophysical survey of green waste.

The composting of organic waste produced by households and businesses is seen as an important component in closed loop recycling. It diverts organic waste from landfill and leads to a product that can be used by farmers as a soil conditioner or fertiliser.

A geophysical survey carried out as part of a research project being undertaken by James Gerrard investigated a field in Somerset that had recently been spread with green waste.

The results of the survey were very poor and this poor quality data could be linked to the presence of ferrous contaminants within the green waste.

The results of the survey were published in the journal Archaeological Prospection and covered by the BBC’s flagship Countryfile programme in 2015

Other archaeologists and metal-detectorists have highlighted the problems that contaminated green waste causes both magnetometry and metal-detector surveys.

In collaboration with Martin Cooke and Massimo Strano an app has been developed for both Android and iOS that allows archaeologists, metal-detectorists and other interested parties to anonymously record instances of contaminated green waste. We hope that the data recorded on this app and website will allow us to assess the scale and extent of green waste contamination in the UK. This will provide a better evidential basis for talking to householders, regulators and the recycling industry about the importance of removing contaminants from green waste.