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Impact of the war in Ukraine on UEF

Tractor on a field.

The use of fertilisers made from sewage sludge in agriculture is not free of risks

The fertilisers may be harmful for organisms due to harmful organic substances, microplastics, and even genotoxic compounds. The harmful substances can accumulate in the field, plants, and soil organisms.

  • Text Marianne Mustonen
  • Photo MostPhotos
  • Video Tussitaikurit Oy

─ In Finland, up to 90 per cent of the sludge from sewage treatment plants is utilised as a fertiliser or soil improver either in agriculture or in green area development, explains Katri Senilä, who is researching the subject for her dissertation. Senilä works as a junior researcher at the University of Eastern Finland, and a doctoral researcher for Finnish Environment Institute.

─ Recycled fertilisers are more topical now than ever before. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is increasingly accelerating Finland’s transition towards a circular economy. Fertilisers are not imported to Finland due to sanctions against Russia. The fertiliser legislation is also currently being reformed at EU and national level.

The harmful substances contained in the sewage sludge end up in the treatment plant with wastewater. In continuous use, some of these harmful substances are accumulated in the field, and also in the field organisms. 

According to Senilä, the best way to improve the quality of sewage sludge is to prevent the harmful substances from entering the treatment plant altogether. 

─For example, this would mean using chemicals and medical substances that are more environmentally friendly, as well as restrictions on the use of the harmful substances.

Katri Senilä

Early Stage Researcher, UEF and Doctoral Researcher, Finnish Environment Institute

Katri Senilä’s dissertation was also made into a video explaining the impact of harmful substances. The video was made by Tussitaikurit Oy.

Transport modelling is also an essential part of the research.

Katri Senilä

Early Stage Researcher, UEF and Doctoral Researcher, Finnish Environment Institute