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Biosolids Recycling 101

What are Biosolids

According to the USEPA, biosolids are the nutrient-rich organic by-product of municipal wastewater treatment . Biosolids can be safely recycled and applied to crop ground, as fertilizer, to improve and maintain healthy soils for maximum plant growth.

Learn more about how biosolids are used and their benefits!


How are Biosolids Produced?

Wastewater is the term used to describe the material collected by sanitary and combined sewer systems and conveyed to a plant for treatment. When wastewater is treated, the solid particles are separated from the water and the water is disinfected and discharged into a waterway. The solids particles that were removed from the water are collected and can undergo a variety of treatment processes to reduce or eliminate pathogens and to minimize odors. If certain EPA-defined criteria are met, then the resulting product can be considered biosolids.

History of Biosolids

The 20th Century

Sewage systems and wastewater treatment plants were not widely constructed in the United States until early in the 20th century and initially focused on the collection of wastewater. At first, there was little thought invested into proper treatment and handling of wastewater and sludge following collection.

The Nineteen-Thirties

In the 1930s the majority of urban municipalities were disposing of their untreated sewage sludge in waterways, mistakenly believing that dilution was a natural form of disinfection. These same waterways were being used for the collection and distribution of drinking water, leading to widespread disease among the population.

Clean Water Act of 1972

Advancing knowledge of waterborne diseases and new regulations, such as the Clean Water Act of 1972, demanded improved treatment of wastewater and prohibited the disposal of untreated sewage sludge in public waterways. It quickly became necessary to find new, safe and cost effective methods of managing sewage sludge.


Technology and biological processes to reduce or eliminate pathogens and odors in municipal sludge were developed and the term ‘biosolids’ was coined to describe the resulting valuable agricultural product. For the past several decades the production of biosolids has been a safe, economic and sustainable solution for sludge management for hundreds of wastewater plants.

Popular Methods of Sewage Sludge Reuse & Disposal

Today, there are various methods used to manage the residual sludge produced as a result of the treatment of wastewater.
Listed below are the three most widely used methods.

Landfill Disposal

Landfill Disposal



Treatment and Land Application of Biosolids

Treatment and Land Application of Biosolids

Of these methods, land application of biosolids is the only method that reuses the material returning valuable nutrients to the soil while conserving landfill space and preventing harmful air emissions associated with incineration.


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