Biosolids Management : A Global Perspective

What better way to learn about biosolids management then to compare our processes and procedures at home to those abroad?

Europe provides an excellent example of biosolids management tactics that are creating results that better the environment and the economy. In fact, the European Union (EU) has committed to treating biosolids as a valuable resource, rather than a burden, as a requirement of long-term sustainability. The EU encourages the use of biosolids for both energy and land application. Currently more than half of the biosolids produced in the EU are used on farmlands. Some of the most active European participants in biosolids management include France, Portugal, Belgium, Italy and Denmark.


In Europe, biosolids are encouraged to be used in the following ways:

  • Agricultural cropland application
  • Commercial sale as fertilizer for horticultural landscaping applications
  • Rangeland and pasture application to improve available grazing
  • Land application in reforested areas

European Union Regulation

In 1986 the EU regulated the use of biosolids for the first time after it was already widely used among agricultural practice in many countries. This regulation set a maximum value of concentrations of heavy metals and bans the spreading of biosolids when the concentration of certain substances in the soil exceeds these values. It also requires Member States to keep records of biosolids use on the following subjects:

  • Quantities of biosolids produced and the quantities supplied for the use in agriculture
  • The composition and properties of the biosolids
  • The types of treatments being carried out
  • The names and locations of recipients of land application

Member States must produce a consolidated report every four years to be published by the Commission, who will, if necessary, submit appropriate proposals for any increased protection of the soil and environment. Other relevant legislative materials include the urban wastewater treatment directive, nitrates directive, water framework directive and the hazardous substances regulations. The quantity and composition of biosolids across Europe have been impacted by these precautionary measures.

By providing a variety of laws and rules that regulate the biosolids management industry, the European Union has been able promote the use of biosolids in a safe and environmentally sustainable way. By constantly updating these regulations based on further scientific discovery and amount of sewage sludge being produced, Europe has been able to successfully minimize sludge in landfills and maximize the use of biosolids in a variety of forms.

In Canada, specifically Ontario, we are still years away from managing and regulating biosolids the same as the European Union. To learn more about Ontario’s ‘Waste Free’ Initiative, check out this blog post or contact us to learn more about your options. The European Union is leading the way and Ontario isn’t far behind.

Posted in Land Application.

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