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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle

Organic Contaminant Content and Physico-Chemical Characteristics of Waste Materials Recycled in Agriculture

Imperial College Consultants Ltd., 58 Prince’s Gate, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2PG, UK
Chemical Contaminants and Residues Branch, Food Safety Policy, Food Standards Agency, Aviation House, 125 Kingsway, London, WC2B 6NH, UK
Fera Science Ltd., Sand Hutton, York, YO41 1LZ, UK
Centre for Dairy Research, Food Production and Quality Division, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, The University of Reading, P.O. Box 237, Reading, Berkshire, RG6 6AR, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Les Copeland
Agriculture 2015, 5(4), 1289-1328;
Received: 2 September 2015 / Revised: 10 November 2015 / Accepted: 18 November 2015 / Published: 17 December 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recycling Organic Wastes in Agriculture)
PDF [338 KB, uploaded 17 December 2015]


A range of wastes representative of materials currently applied, or with future potential to be applied, to agricultural land in the UK as fertilisers and soil improvers or used as animal bedding in livestock production, were investigated. In addition to full physico-chemical characterization, the materials were analysed for a suite of priority organic contaminants. In general, contaminants were present at relatively low concentrations. For example, for biosolids and compost-like-output (CLO), concentrations of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins/dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were approximately 1−10 and 5–50 times lower, respectively, than various proposed or implemented European limit values for these contaminants in biosolids or composts applied to agricultural land. However, the technical basis for these limits may require re-evaluation in some cases. Polybrominated, and mixed halogenated, dibenzo-p-dioxins/dibenzofurans are not currently considered in risk assessments of dioxins and dioxin-like chemicals, but were detected at relatively high concentrations compared with PCDD/Fs in the biosolids and CLOs and their potential contribution to the overall toxic equivalency is assessed. Other ‘emerging’ contaminants, such as organophosphate flame retardants, were detected in several of the waste materials, and their potential significance is discussed. The study is part of a wider research programme that will provide evidence that is expected to improve confidence in the use of waste-derived materials in agriculture and to establish guidelines to protect the food chain where necessary. View Full-Text
Keywords: ash; agriculture; biosolids; compost-like-output; food; organic contaminants; recycling; waste ash; agriculture; biosolids; compost-like-output; food; organic contaminants; recycling; waste
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Rigby, H.; Dowding, A.; Fernandes, A.; Humphries, D.; Petch, R.G.; Reynolds, C.K.; Rose, M.; Smith, S.R. Organic Contaminant Content and Physico-Chemical Characteristics of Waste Materials Recycled in Agriculture. Agriculture 2015, 5, 1289-1328.

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