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Sewage sludge has been used as a fertiliser for many years now and there is a good reason for this: the sludge contains phosphorus, an essential element for all life forms on our planet. The Federal government is intending to examine the use of sewage sludge as a fertiliser. This will raise a number of questions. What measures must be undertaken to ensure agricultural businesses have a guaranteed supply of fertiliser in the future? And what will happen to the phosphorus contained in the sewage sludge?
Eleven German associations – including the DBV (German Farmers’ Association), the BDE (Federal Association of the German Waste Management Industry) and the VKU (Association of Local Utility Companies) – have come together to draw up a list of key parameters to develop a new strategy for sewage sludge. The associations believe that high quality sewage sludge should continue to be used by agricultural and landscaping businesses as a fertiliser, as it is an extremely efficient source of phosphorus, nitrogen and organic substances.
AGRAGENT®, a division run by REMONDIS’ subsidiary RETERRA, specialises in supplying phosphorus to the agricultural sector.
REMONDIS has been looking into this subject for a long while now. The company has been supplying farmers and landscapers with sewage sludge fertiliser for years. This quality assured fertiliser is a popular product as it is effective, efficient and safe – helping to provide plants with the nutrients they need and enriching the soil at the same time. In fact, it has been proven that this fertiliser improves all soil values – whether it be levels of nutrients, trace elements or humus. Moreover, there is the added advantage that absolutely all of the phosphorus in the material is used. Each year, REMONDIS’ subsidiary, RETERRA Service GmbH, returns around 10,000 tonnes of phosphorus to soils via its fertilisers.
Besides these advantages, the company can also adjust the composition of their phosphorus and nitrogen-based fertilisers to meet the requirements of their clients’ crops or soils. As a result, fields can be spread with fertilisers that meet their exact needs and help balance out nutrient deficiencies.
Not only are global reserves of phosphorus running out, they are also located in just a very small number of countries outside Europe. This creates dependency.
The associations are also looking at alternative ways of recovering and recycling the phosphorus from sewage sludge that cannot be used as a fertiliser. Moreover, they are calling for the phosphorus to be recovered from thermally treated sewage sludge. With global reserves of phosphate ore dwindling, it is becoming more important than ever to recover this valuable substance from such sources – Germany alone consumes 170,000 tonnes of phosphorus a year. REMONDIS and its subsidiary REMONDIS Aqua have already developed a number of innovative concepts – such as its TetraPhos, RePhos and ThomPhos processes – to make the very most of this resource.