Effects of microplastics in sewage sludge on soils ‘overlooked.‘ Utility Week, November 7, 2016.
Researchers are concerned about the lack of knowledge regarding the potential consequences that microplastics may have on agricultural landscapes through the application of sewage sludge. Until now, the environmental problem of microplastics has focused on their effects in the ocean and on marine life.
Luca Nizzetto and Sindre Langaas, from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) and Martyn Futter, from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala, say microplastics in soils have largely been overlooked.
In an article recently published in Environmental Science & Technology, the researchers said sewage sludge is in principle waste, but it can also represent a resource in agriculture and horticulture. Fertiliser based on sludge contains valuable nutrients, but sustainable use requires that the levels of undesirable substances in the sludge is kept under control.
However, they said, wastewater treatment plants receive large amounts of microplastics emitted from households, industry and surface run-off in urban areas. Most of these microplastics accumulate in the sewage sludge.
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Microplastics in agricultural soils: A reason to worry? Science Daily, October 28 2016.
Microplastics are increasingly seen as an environmental problem of global proportions. While the focus to date has been on microplastics in the ocean and their effects on marine life, microplastics in soils have largely been overlooked. Researchers are concerned about the lack of knowledge regarding potential consequences of microplastics in agricultural landscapes from application of sewage sludge.
Sewage sludge is in principle waste, but it can also represent a resource in agriculture and horticulture. Fertilizer based on sludge contains valuable nutrients, but sustainable use requires that the levels of undesirable substances in the sludge is kept under control. Waste water treatment plants receive large amounts of microplastics emitted from households, industry and surface run-off in urban areas. Most of these microplastics accumulate in the sewage sludge.
Today, sludge from municipal sewage treatment plants is applied to agricultural areas as a supplement to traditional fertilizers. These applications are generally well regulated as sludge might contain hazardous substances of different sorts. Microplastics are however not currently on the regulatory agenda for the use of sludge in agriculture. The potential consequences for sustainability and food security have not been adequately analyzed.
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Sewage sludge could make great sustainable fertilizer | Source: Phys.org, Aug 15 2016 |
Ever thought of putting sewage on your plants? Scientists say thermally conditioned sewage sludge serves as an excellent fertilizer to improve soil properties. This was recently published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Nutrition. The major advantage over commercial fertilizers? Sustainable re-use of essential and finite phosphorus resources.
Phosphorus is a key nutrient for all living beings. When deficient in the diet, it severely compromises human health, and when deficient in agriculture, it restricts crop productivity. Without phosphorus, there can be no food production.
As the source of phosphorus is non-renewable phosphate rocks, there is a strong need for increased recycling to ensure phosphorus security. Efficient use and reduced environmental dissemination of phosphorus throughout the food system is needed to secure the ability to feed a growing global population.
As technological improvements increased the phosphorus content of sewage sludge, it now is a readily available alternative to commercial fertilizers in agriculture. To assess its effectiveness, Andry Andriamananjara from the University of Antananarivo (Madagascar) and his colleagues used a phosphorus radiotracer technique to measure the availability of phosphorus for plants in thermally conditioned sewage sludge.