Biosolids: Waste or Resource?



Kevin Brady

There has been some discussion in the municipality about the pros and cons of applying bio-solids to agricultural fields.  More broadly, there is a larger conversation about how we move our economy from a linear take-make-waste economy to a more circular economy.

In a circular economy, wastes are looked at as resources to be recovered, reused or recycled. In some cases this is pretty straight forward (e.g. aluminium can and paper fibre recycling) in other cases we need to make adjustments to infrastructure and regulations to ensure resources are not wasted (e.g. rules and systems to ensure proper and safe recovery and managament of the valuable materials in electronics products such as laptops and mobile phones).  For example, the European Union (EU) recently passed a circular economy package to help improve the circularity of their economy. It was interesting to see one of the first actions the EU has taken is to “set out common rules on converting bio-waste into raw materials that can be used to manufacture fertilising products”. 

The rules will “define safety, quality and labelling requirements that all fertilising products need to comply with to be traded”, helping turn a problem into an opportunity. It would seem that, in this instance, Quebec is ahead of the curve as it already has rules defining quality, safety and labelling requirements for biosolids. Maybe we should be looking for more opportunities to turn our wastes into resources. There are many examples of businesses who turn agricultural waste into biomaterials and this could be an economic development opportunity for our municipality.