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Waste can clean up polluted soil

Organic refuse from households and industry can help turn polluted soils back into rich and varied habitats. But a shift in public and government attitudes is needed before this can happen, scientists say.

A recent paper published in Elements describes how researchers managed to restore heavily contaminated sites by applying specially designed mixes of organic waste, which would otherwise often end up in landfill sites.

'Remediating land with waste has gained more interest recently, but the science is still in its early stages,' says Professor Davey Jones of Bangor University, who led the research. 'What's unusual here is that we managed to end up with high-biodiversity grassland, whereas in the past people have often been content to remove the most harmful pollution and end up with a site covered in something like football turf.'

Jones and his colleagues worked on two sites in north Wales. The first was a hillside near Blaenau Ffestiniog where the waste rock left over from slate mining had been dumped for generations, leaving a permanently barren eyesore.

The team added compost made from a mix of solid waste from sewage works, green garden waste and sludge from a paper recycling mill, adding sulphur to create the low nutrient, acidic conditions needed for a diverse grassland habitat. Eighteen months later, a varied mix of grasses and other plants had colonised a site where nothing had grown for 60 years.

The second was an old industrial site at Shotton, contaminated with a variety of heavy metals and organic chemicals. Here, the team devised a different blend of organic materials and applied it over the surface of the soil, creating raised piles of compost to encourage microbial activity. Rich meadowland has now become established on the site.

For the full article please use the link below.............

Planet Earth Online