The majority of sewage sludge is hauled away in trucks and disposed of on American farms. Some is given away or sold as “compost.” Some is dried and made into pellets, bagged, and sold as fertilizer. And sometimes sludge is “blended” into 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. 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.
The largest marketer, processor, and hauler of sludge is Synagro, Inc., a company owned by the Carlyle Group.
Branded Products Containing Sewage Sludge
(If you have a sludge product to add, please send information to info at sludgenews.org.)
“In 1992, we [Synagro] formed the OPMG [Organic Product Marketing Group] to market composted and pelletized biosolids from our own facilities as well as municipally owned facilities. OPMG currently markets in excess of 982,000 cubic yards of compost and 121,000 tons of pelletized biosolids annually. OPMG markets a majority of its biosolids products under the trade names Granulite Company and AllGro Company. Based on our experience, OPMG is capable of marketing biosolids products to the highest paying markets. In 2006, we marketed 121,000 tons or approximately 39 percent of the heat-dried pellets produced in the United States. We also marketed 500,000 tons of compost, which we believe is significantly more than any other producer of municipal based compost materials.” (2006 annual report, Synagro.)