Potential of sewage sludge phosphorus in plant production and impact on environment and food chain


Sewage sludge is the most significant source of phosphorus (P) that is barely utilized in plant production in Finland. However, it is estimated that easily exploitable P reserves will be depleted in the near future, requiring more efficient utilization of these unused P resources. The biggest challenges for using P originating from sewage sludge in agricultural purposes are the low solubility of the phosphorus retained in the sludge and the possible occurrence of hazardous substances and pharmaceutical residues, originating from the various domestic and industrial sources. There is also a concern that these harmful organic substances may end up to surface and groundwater resources and to food chain.


The purpose of this study is to study the long term fertilizing effect of this sludge bound phosphorus, which is not yet fully recognized as a possible alternative resource. One aim is also to study the concentrations of selected hazardous substances and pharmaceutical residues and their possible accumulation to food chain. A novel method for future handling of sewage sludges may be pyrolysis and its effect on the above mentioned factors is studied.


sewage , organics detrimental elements, heavy metalls, , fertilizerphosphorus, food safety, pyrolysis

Responsible project leader:

Ylivainio, Kari, Senior Researcher, Natural Resources Institute Finland Luke

Person at Finnish Food Authority responsible for the project:

Suominen, Kimmo, Senior Researcher, Risk Assessment Research Unit

In cooperation with:

Natural Resources Institute Finland Luke;
Finnish Environment Institute Syke;
Finnish Water Utilities Association;
Biovakka Oy;
Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY;
AB Stormossen Oy;
Tampereen vesi;
Biokymppi Oy;
Envor Oy;
Turun seudun puhdistamo Oy;
Forssan vesihuoltoliikelaitos;
Porvoon vesi;
Kouvolan vesi

Project status:

In progress

Year of commencement:


Year of completion:


Project financed by:

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry

Page last updated 10/5/2018