2018 German Regulation Boosts Phosphorus Recovery...
...but reduces biosolids recycling.
In October, 2017, a new sewage sludge ordinance came into effect in Germany. It is a major revision of German biosolids policy, and it took 10 years to develop. Currently, about 1/4 of the wastewater solids produced in the country are applied to soils. Much is incinerated, and the rest is landfilled. Biosolids recycling rates are higher in many other European countries.
According to the European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform, the new German sewage sludge ordinance makes phosphorus (P) recovery from sewage sludge obligatory for all German wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) larger than 50,000 person equivalents (p.e.). This applies to about 500 WWTPs out of the country's 9300 WWTPs. They will have to recover the phosphorus if the sludge contains more than 2% phosphorus /DS (dry solids), and one way to do this will be to incinerate the sludge in mono-incinerators (sewage sludge incinerators, or SSI), which are already fairly common. Germany has already developed some recycling of SSI ash as P fertilizer applied to soils. Land application of traditional biosolids will generally be allowed only for WWTPs less than 50,000 p.e. WWTPs above 100,000 p.e. will have to fulfill the new phosphorus recovery requirements by 2029, after a 12-year transition period. WWTPs of 50,000 to 100,000 p.e. get three additional years for implementation. All affected WWTPs have to develop phosphorus recovery concepts by 2023.
NEBRA has provided some facilitation support for SSI ash research at the université Laval in Québec, where experiments are showing how SSI ash can be used as effective P fertilizer. Some New Hampshire SSI ash has been used in this way in recent years. Quebec is requiring incinerators to a) recover and utilize excess heat and b) recycle ash to soils as P fertilizer in order to keep operating.
Research and development of P recovery from SSI ashes has been advanced further in the SUSAN project.
And the rationale for shifting primary focus to recovery of P is discussed in this paper, which provides further information about the new German P recovery regulations.