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Sewage Sludge Ordinance (AbfKlärV)

New Sewage Sludge Ordinance has entered into force

The Sewage Sludge Ordinance of 15 April 1992 effective up to now regulates, in addition to the provisions of the Fertiliser Ordinance (Düngemittelverordnung - DüMV) in particular pollutants in the use of sewage sludge for fertilisation purposes on agricultural soils. Furthermore, the ordinance stipulates that sewage sludge application shall be limited and completely prohibited on cultivated areas for vegetables and fruits, permanent grassland and certain water protection areas. To ensure the unlimited use of land envisaged for sewage sludge application, the ordinance requires that the land be regularly analysed for pollutants and sets out appropriate pollutant limits that must not be exceeded in the application of sewage sludge.

To better fulfil the objectives of sustainable environmental and resource conservation, the ordinance's existing requirements for soil-related sewage sludge utilisation will be tightened and its scope of application extended to include landscaping measures. The central element of the ordinance however, is the inclusion, for the first time, of comprehensive requirements for the recovery of phosphorus from sewage sludge and sludge incineration ash, which operators of wastewater treatment plants and sewage sludge incineration plants must comply with once a two-stage transition period lasting several years has expired. The obligation to recover phosphorus becomes effective 12 years after the ordinance has entered into force, in 2029, and applies to waste water treatment plants with a capacity of more than 100,000 population equivalent and 15 years after the ordinance enters into force, in 2032, for plants with a capacity of 50,000 population equivalent. The ordinance does not set out a specific technology for phosphorus recovery but leaves sufficient freedom for the application or development of innovative recovery processes. Sewage sludge with low phosphorus concentrations (less than 20 grams of phosphorus per kilogram of sewage sludge (dry weight)) shall be exempt from this recovery obligation.

Smaller waste water treatment plants with a capacity of up to 50,000 population equivalent will have the possibility to apply their sewage sludge directly onto soil for fertilisation purposes even after expiry of the 15 year transition period. This takes account of the special conditions in rural regions. In addition, the ordinance provides the possibility to implement the soil-related application on the basis of voluntary quality assurance which supplements regulatory supervision.

The Coalition Agreement for the 18th legislative period calls for sewage sludge to be used for the recovery of phosphorus and other nutrients rather than as a fertiliser. In light of this, the planned amendment to the Sewage Sludge Ordinance marks a new direction for sewage sludge utilisation in Germany. The primary goal of the ordinance is to return the valuable components of sewage sludge (such as phosphorus) to the economic cycle, more comprehensively than before. The amendment will also significantly limit the conventional soil-related utilisation of sewage sludge with a view to further reducing pollutant inputs into soil.

The Federal Cabinet approved the Ordinance on the Reform of Sewage Sludge Utilisation (Amended version of Sewage Sludge Ordinance) on 18 January 2017. After the German Parliament approved the draft ordinance on 9 March 2017, the Bundesrat also gave its approval on 12 May 2017 pursuant to amendments.

On 24 May 2017, the Federal Cabinet adopted the amendments approved by the Bundesrat on 12 May 2017 on the draft ordinance submitted by the Federal Government; the German Parliament gave its approval on 29 June 2017. The Ordinance on the Reform of Sewage Sludge Utilisation of 27 September 2017 entered into force on 3 October 2017.

Last update: 04.10.2017
Further Information

Sewage sludge