The wastewater treatment industry's -- and the EPA's -- preferred method of disposal of sewage sludge in the United States is "land application." To get the public to accept this has required a concerted effort from government and the sludge-industry to make the public think that sludge is "organic," "nutrient-rich," and otherwise "beneficial." Calling sludge "compost" is another trick. The idea of "composting" sludge is based on the dependable presence of human feces in sludge. Human feces do indeed consist largely of organic matter. But sludge consists only partly of human feces.
The idea, therefore, of "treating" sludge so that it can become "compost," a "soil amendment," a "fertilizer"--is disingenuous. Once mixed together, the potential value of each and all of the materials concentrated in the sludge is lost. No "treatment" of sludge can "purify" the human excrement: once mixed with poisons, it too becomes a poison.
Sewage sludge looks innocuous enough when it is given away or sold as “compost." Sometimes it is dried and tirmed into neat little pellets, bagged, and sold as fertilizer. And sometimes sludge is “blended” into other bagged fertilizers. There is no labeling requirement. Sometimes the product is called “biosolids,” sometimes not.
If sewage sludge -- whether “treated” or not -- is used as a fertilizer on crops, the food from these crops cannot receive USDA organic certification (the National Organic Standards prohibits the use of sewage sludge on organic crops). But there is no federal rule that forbids non-organic fertilizers from using the term “organic.” The grower must know what he or she is putting on his or her fields. Gardeners, too, have to do some investigative work if they buy compost or fertilizer.
Branded Products Containing Sewage Sludge
(If you have a sludge product to add, please send information to info at sludgenews.org.)