Report from thematic workshop on recirculating nutrients from urban to rural areas

In Sweden, as is the case in many places, there are signs of a disconnect between actors working in waste sectors and those working in farming, food, and agriculture. Yet there is a desire to bridge this gap. On 5 November 2020, the Swedish Nutrient Platform (SNP) and the project End-of-wastewater jointly held a thematic workshop on the topic of recirculating nutrients from urban to rural areas. In this multi-stakeholder digital workshop, 40 actors from the Swedish food and waste management sectors discussed desired characteristics of recycled fertilizer products derived from human excreta and wastewater, including how their uptake could be promoted. The workshop was guided by a literature review and a suite of interviews and surveys that were conducted prior to the workshop. The report summarizes the results from the workshop.

Across actors, safety came out as the most important characteristic of products derived from human waste. For food producers, safety ranked second after reliable information on the nutrient content of products (notably nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). To promote the use of fertilizer products derived from human waste, workshop participants named necessary actions in four focus areas:

  • Regulations and policy.
  • Research to support decision making (implementation, benefits, costs, and risks).
  • Infrastructure adaptation.
  • Knowledge sharing and collaboration.

Although specific action ideas within each focus area were named, identifying who should be responsible for those actions was harder for workshop participants to answer. Bridging the gap in perspectives among different types of actors is still needed and there remains a need to determine specific intermediary actions with clear roles and responsibilities. Some of these actions may focus on:

  • Clear and supportive regulation at regional, national and EU levels.
  • Certification systems for fertilizer products containing recycled nutrients from wastewater streams.
  • Better knowledge sharing around risk mitigation and benefits of reuse.
  • Sensitization of the general public, as well as actors who build sanitation infrastructure, and process and sell food, in and beyond Sweden.

Lundin E, Metson G, McConville J, Westling K. 2021. Recirkulering av näringsämnen mellan stad och land – vad vill gödselanvändaren ha? Aktivitetsrapport – tematisk workshop. IVL Report Nr B 2414.

Contact: Jennifer McConville

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