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Milorganite. For Better Results. Naturally.  Milorganite: The Essence of Earth Day

April 4, 2016 (Milwaukee)—It’s fitting that Wisconsin, the origin of Earth Day, is home to the world’s longest-running and nation’s largest recycling program: Milorganite.

Earth Day, which began in 1970 at the prompting of then Wisconsin U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, evokes images of volunteers clearing debris from shorelines, elementary school students planting trees, and communities collecting hazardous materials from homeowners to protect land and water. Earth Day was the birth of the modern environmental movement.

But how does Milorganite—a fertilizer—fit into Earth Day’s focus on environmental stewardship?

“I’m sure most people don’t think of fertilizer and environmental stewardship as being related. Actually, most would say they’re at odds with each other,” said Milorganite Director of Marketing, Jeff Spence. “But when you’re talking about Milorganite, they’re definitely related.”

Spence is referring to the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) production of Milorganite, an organic-nitrogen fertilizer. Nutrients are reclaimed from wastewater using large-scale processes that mimic nature. Through research conducted in the early 1900s it was found that the resulting product was useful as a fertilizer and safe to use on lawns and gardens. “It’s a form of recycling we normally wouldn’t think about,” added Spence.

“This year Milorganite is celebrating its 90th anniversary of commercial production,” said Spence. “We’re proud to have been stewards of the environment long before it was even a concept. Here we’ve been doing it for nine decades.” And in those 90 years nearly 9.8 billion—that’s with a “B”—pounds of nutrient-rich material has been diverted from landfill to re-use.

“In recognizing Earth Day and participating in activities that promote a cleaner environment, we should also remember how bad things were more than 100 years ago. In the early 1900s, Milwaukee’s waterways were essentially open sewers. There was even talk of building a plank road over the Milwaukee River to simply hide the problem,” explained Spence. Another solution was to literally flush the river into the lake periodically, pushing the problem farther downstream, but not really addressing it.

“We encourage everyone to do their part in protecting the environment. It’s something we need to consider every day, not just on Earth Day. Stewardship is a habit. Little things like recycling as much paper, cans and bottles as possible make a difference. Or in the case of Milorganite production, using more renewable energy on a major scale and reducing waste,” concluded Spence. “And, yes, using products to maintain your lawn that don’t harm the environment, like Milorganite, is another habit homeowners can feel good about.”

Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Making Big Plans for Green Infrastructure

By Karen Hobbs Senior Policy Analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council - October 29, 2013

Milorganite’s parent company, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), is leading the nation in Green solutions for water management.  MMSD's green efforts began back in 1926 with the Milorganite program; recycling a nutrient rich byproduct into fertilizer.  Over the past several decades Milwaukee has transformed its approach to storm water management, and continues to look to the future and green infrastructure is one piece of the multi-tiered approach.    Read article

Milorganite. For Better Results. Naturally.  Milorganite BioPreferred® Certified - 85+ Years of Renewable Materials September 2012

(Milwaukee, WI) – Milorganite is now certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a biobased product because it is derived from 85% renewable materials.

The BioPreferred program qualifies products as biobased if they are “composed wholly or significantly of biological ingredients-renewable plant, animal, marine or forestry materials.” Fertilizers are tested for biobased content by a thirdparty lab and then deemed certified by the USDA.

The BioPreferred program goal is to increase the purchase of biobased products resulting in a reduction of petroleum consumption, increase the use of renewable resources, better manage the carbon cycle, and contribute to reducing adverse environmental and health impacts. Look for the certified biobased label to identify these products to help select products that reduce environmental impact and are proven to be more environmentally friendly.

Milorganite. For Better Results. Naturally.  Milorganite Reaches 9 Billion Pounds - With 85 Years of Recycling June 2012   

(Milwaukee, WI) – Trusted by professionals since 1926, the first pelletized fertilizer in the United States, Milorganite, can now add sales of 9 billion pounds to its success story.  That’s enough Milorganite to:

• Wrap around the earth 3.8 times

• Fertilize 78 million lawns

• Lap the Daytona International Speedway 10,000 times

Created by Pioneers in Water Reclamation

Milorganite’s unique history began with Milwaukee’s goal to clean up its rivers and Lake Michigan.  The city became the first in the country to use microscopic organisms, or bugs, to clean wastewater.  In the early 1920’s agronomist and turf expert, O.J. Noer found that the available nitrogen in these bugs resembled high grade organic nitrogenous fertilizers and gave superior growth results compared to manures and chemical fertilizers of the time.  Thus began the inception of Milorganite as the first pelletized N-P-K (Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium) fertilizer marketed and sold in the United States.  

A Long Standing Commitment to Sustainability

Some communities choose to landfill the organisms used in wastewater treatment.  Instead, Milwaukee figured out how to safely reuse the microbes that make up Milorganite by squeezing the water out of the bugs, drying, and pelletizing.

Leading in sustainability has been fundamental to how Milorganite has operated for 90 years.  Through our products, services, operations and community involvement, we promote the efficient use of resources to benefit all people and our planet. The environment and sustainability are key elements of our business. We’ve been recycling for 90 years, making us one of the nation’s oldest recyclers.

Energy Conservation

“Man-made” synthetic fertilizers depend on the petroleum industry, using fossil fuels as a key input.  Milorganite contains no petroleum products.  In fact, the facility where Milorganite is made will soon get the majority of its power from landfill gas and exploration continues for additional alternative energy sources.  The landfill gas project will significantly reduce the amount of natural gas and electricity needed to make our fertilizer, fitting in with our mission to create value where others see waste.