New Zealand biosolids : Lost opportunity or just lost

Abstract

Of the thousands of tonnes of sludge produced annually in NZ wastewater treatment plants over 60% is disposed of in landfills or long term on-site storage, which is seen as a low cost, low risk solution by regulators and biosolids producers. This is a cost to the community, gives no environmental benefit and conflicts with government policy. Uncertainty still exists with regulator, iwi and communities regarding how much of any contaminant to allow on land, and many stakeholders feel their concerns are not adequately reflected in the current NZ Guidelines. New information is now available to provide defensible limits for the contaminants of concern in biosolids, as well as new policy and methodology into stakeholder engagement. An update to the NZ Guidelines is timely and will give decision-makers and their communities confidence and a protocol to balance environmental, economic, social and cultural factors to increase biosolids use.

This paper provides a history of events related to biosolids regulatory control and its impact within the country. It includes an estimate of the amount and potential value of biosolids in New Zealand and provides a comparison with usage in other countries, thus indicating our ranking relative to our trading partners. This clearly illustrates why an update is an imperative.

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