University of Northern British Columbia
PRINCE GEORGE – New research from the University of Northern British Columbia suggests that waste from municipalities and bio-energy plants can be combined to make fertilizer.
“What we found is that by combining these two waste materials, we make them more than the sum of their parts,” say UNBC environmental science professor Mike Rutherford and forestry professor Hugues Massicotte, who both supervised the project conducted by UNBC student Nichola Gilbert. “Bio-energy ash is rich in nutrients, but low in nitrogen while biosolids are high in organic matter and nitrogen. They’re a perfect match that can increase plant growth by more than 200 per cent in some soils.”
Trials were undertaken to document the growth of plants in deficient soils that had been enriched only with ash, with biosolids, and with ash/bio-solid combinations. The project used ash from the University’s award-winning bio-energy plant, local industries, and locally-sourced biosolids. Biosolids are defined as stabilized sewage resulting from municipal wastewater treatment plants, and are sometimes used as fertilizers.
Overall, wood ash combined with biosolids proved the most fertile.
“With industry and communities already operating bio-energy plants – or planning to implement them – this research illustrates potential uses for the ash that emerges from these plants,” says Dr. Rutherford. “The potential is there for communities to complete the sustainability loop and make use of the ash that comes from the bio-energy plants that provide their energy, and the waste produced by their community, to produce the next crop of biomass for the bio-energy plant, and reclaim land after forestry and mining,” says Rutherford.