Recycled of biosolids has been going on for decades, yet it can still be rough going in terms of managing public perceptions.

The fundamental problem is that the "biosolids" product comes from the wastewater agency or sanitation district, so therefore it is waste. To some degree, no amount of scientific data presented by the wastewater agency stating that the product is safe and "good for the soil" will change this perception.

After all, wastewater agencies are not soil health experts. They deal with waste, and their primary motivation is to get rid of it. The consumer response is naturally, "Not in my back yard."

Investing in Markets and Brands

The Kellogg Garden Products brand has been selling products with biosolids as an ingredient in Southern California for 75 years. However the brand still is at risk due to campaigns against biosolids from competitors and activists.

What has helped Kellogg is its brand, which conveys its commitment to healthy soil and plants --reminding us again that it is the brand that creates the trust.

For the most part, wastewater agencies have not viewed either markets, or brands such as Kellogg's, as assets. In fact, the market for a product, and the brands that deliver the product, are tremendous assets that need to be protected, nurtured, and invested in.

Historically, contracting relationships between wastewater and sanitation agencies and their private-sector partners have not adequately addressed investment in market expansion and brand development.

The Association of Compost Producers in Southern California has recognized this branding problem. The Association is a coalition of wastewater agencies, solid waste agencies, and private companies that have embraced the "We Build Healthy Soil" brand. The Association is working diligently to build acceptance, markets, and brands for compost that uses biosolids as an ingredient.

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