UK imports tonnes of Dutch sewage sludge ‘for agricultural benefit’ sparking toxicity concerns

The UK is importing 27,500 tonnes of sewage sludge containing human waste from the Netherlands for agricultural purposes, despite concerns over its toxicity for human health and the environment.

A permit for 15 shipments was issued in February by the UK”s Environment Agency, according to documents obtained by Greenpeace’s Unearthed investigative unit and seen by Euronews.

The notification provides for the expedition until November 2020 of “dewatered municipal sewage sludge” as part of the “recycling/reclamation of organic substances that are not used as solvents” and for “agricultural benefit” — i.e. fertilisers to use on farmlands.

Unearthed‘s investigation found out that investigators commissioned by the UK’s Environment Agency uncovered that sewage waste was contaminated with “persistent organic pollutants” or microplastics and still tested positive for salmonella or “high concentrations of e-coli”.

In their report, they had warned UK authorities that the routine spread of sludge as fertiliser may ultimately leave soil “unsuitable for agriculture” and pose a serious risk to human health.

The Netherlands has banned the spreading of sludge on farmland since 1995 but has been looking for new disposal destinations after a crisis at an Amsterdam waste incineration company.

“The sludge that is spread onto our farms and fields has become such a toxic cocktail of plastics, chemicals and bacteria. Add waste from the Netherlands into the mix and the risk of further contamination is only going to skyrocket,” Greenpeace UK’s executive director, John Sauven, said.

While the UK legislation sets potentially toxic element (PTE) concentration limits when spread on the surface of grassland (1200mg/kg dry solids of lead for instance), there are no set PTE concentrations in the sludge that you can use on arable soils.

The Environment Agency launched its “strategy for safe and sustainable sludge use” in July which aims at reviewing “the current regulatory regime for sludge treatment, storage and use” by 2023.

“The Environment Agency really needs to get its own house in order before we allow the UK to become a dumping ground for other countries polluted sewage,” Sauven argued.

“Spreading sewage sludge is higher up the waste hierarchy than many alternatives, such as incineration and landfill. Sewage sludge can be spread to land as fertiliser or soil improver and can be a valuable source of nutrients,” an Environment Agency spokesperson said.

“While spreading waste can have beneficial impacts on the land when used as a substitute for manufactured fertilisers, we are clear this practice must not harm the environment. We will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those who fail to manage any risks appropriately – including prosecution in the most severe cases,” they promised.

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Meghan hits out at ‘toxicity’ of media attention she has faced | US News

The Duchess of Sussex has criticised the “toxicity” of some media attention which she said uses “salacious” stories instead of truthful ones.

Meghan earlier launched a legal battle over articles published in the MailOnline and Mail On Sunday, claiming they breached her privacy after they published parts of a letter written to her estranged father.

Speaking at a virtual event organised by non-profit newsroom The 19th, she said: “There’s so much toxicity out there in what’s being referred to, my husband and I talk about it often, this economy for attention.

“That is what is monetisable right now when you’re looking at the digital space and media.

“So if you are just trying to grab someone’s attention and keep it you’re going for something salacious versus something truthful.”

The duchess said getting to a place where stories are told “through a compassionate or empathetic lens” will “help bind people as a community”.

She added: “You want to have trust in journalism and you want to have trust in what you are reading in the hope that it’s fact.

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“We have become so, sadly, comfortable with the idea that we are just getting all this stuff and it becomes noise as opposed to truth and accurate journalism.”

Meghan also said it was “devastating” to return to the US with her husband Prince Harry and see the “state of affairs” it was in.

Meghan and Harry have moved to the US

The couple moved from Canada to the US earlier this year and are said to have bought an £11m home in the Californian celebrity hotspot of Santa Barbara.

Speaking about returning to her home country, Meghan said: “It was so sad to see where our country was in that moment.

“And if there’s any silver lining in that I would say that in the weeks that were happening after the murder of George Floyd, in the peaceful protests you were seeing, in the voices that were coming out, in the way that people were actually owning their role and acknowledging their role that they played, either actively or passively, in the discrimination of other people, specifically of the black community.

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The duchess says she is looking forward to being able to use her voice

“It shifted from sadness to a feeling of absolute inspiration because I can see that the tide is turning.”

She said she is now looking forward to “using my voice in a way I haven’t been able to of late”.

Meghan and Harry announced earlier this year that they would be distancing themselves from royal life and becoming financially independent.

They are no longer working members of the monarchy and are no longer known as HRH.

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