What are Biosolids?

Biosolids are nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner produced from the solids (food and poop) removed in wastewater treatment. Composting takes food and garden waste and through natural biological processes converts these materials into a soil amendment. Similar biological processes convert food and poop from wastewater treatment to a nutrient rich soil conditioner – which is biosolids.

Growing and harvesting plants from the land removes soil nutrients. We consume these nutrients in the food we eat. Biosolids returns these macro and micro nutrients to the soil. Returning these nutrients ensures fertile soils. Just like compost the nutrients in biosolids are found in organic matter – the “sponge” in healthy soils. The organic matter stores and releases nutrients and water to plants slowly through time. The organic matter in biosolids improves soil structure.

Biosolids are an alternative source of nutrients to chemical fertilizer. Because biosolids originate from your poop and the food you eat they contain all of the essential nutrients plants require for growth. This is difficult to obtain in chemical fertilizers. Returning nutrients to the soil reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. The production of chemical fertilizers also uses significant energy and contributes to global warming. Increasing the organic matter in the soil increases the amount of carbon stored – sequestering greenhouse gases. Biosolids are a renewable source of nutrients and organic matter. Returning these to soil is a critical part in building and maintaining healthy soils. Our sustainability depends on it.

Are Biosolids Safe?

Biosolids are safe. Unlike most chemical fertilizers and animal manures, biosolids are required to meet stringent safety and regulatory standards developed from decades of academic and government research. In fact, more research has been conducted on biosolids and biosolids has more regulations than any other fertilizer or soil amendment.

The safety and benefits of biosolids has been documented through numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies. Biosolids build healthy soils. Biosolids are used as fertilizers and soil conditioners throughout the world.

About Building Healthy Soils

Biosolids are used in three ways:

1. Biosolids as Fertilizer in Agriculture and Forestry

As a replacement to chemical fertilizers to improve soil fertility and water holding capacity. Biosolids are applied directly to the soil. Examples include:

  • Agricultural crops (eg. human and animal food crops)

  • Natural forest stands (eg. trees and understory vegetation)

  • Intensive forest plantations (eg. Christmas trees or biomass plantations)

2. As a Soil Amendment in the Reclamation of Disturbed Land

A significant challenge in the reclamation of disturbed sites is a lack of soil, or extremely poor soils. Biosolids used in these activities serves to initiate and accelerate the development of soil. Biosolids are often mixed with other materials like wood waste and sand, or mixed with stockpiled soil removed from a site prior to disturbance. Examples include:

  • Mineral, aggregate, and coal mine reclamation

  • Pipeline, hydro transmission, roadway corridor restoration

  • Landfill closure

  • Slope failures/landslide restoration

  • Wildfire restoration

3. As a Retail/Wholesale Product

Biosolids can be sold directly as a product or used as an ingredient in soil or soil products. Examples include:

  • Biosolids-based fertilizers (eg. bagged products available in garden centres)

  • Biosolids compost

  • Biosolids growing media (eg. horticulture)

Need Help with Building Healthy Soils or Managing Biosolids?

SYLVIS provides consulting services throughout the world including applied research, consultation and education, options assessment and development, and policy and practice and conducts turn-key biosolids management programs for many biosolids generators throughout North America with offices in Canada and the United States. Our operational programs include landfill closure, agricultural fertilization, forest fertilization, mine reclamation, ecological restoration, biomass production, and value-added product development.

Our biosolids management clients range include First Nations, municipal and regional governments, and private industries generating 30 to 30,000 dry tonnes of biosolids per year.

SYLVIS has been fertilizing agricultural and forestry crops, reclaiming and restoring disturbed land, and creating biosolids based products for over 30 years. Our staff of professional agrologists, biologists, foresters, and team of soil scientists works with land owners, land managers, and farmers to build healthy soils – in many cases, for free!
If you are a biosolids generator or a land owner that is interested in building healthy soils, please Contact Us to learn more about working with SYLVIS.