Cellulose decomposition in soils amended over twenty year ago with heavy metal-contaminated sewage sludges was assessed by using the cotton-strip assay. The soils of the Luddington Experiment now contain concentrations of Cu, Ni and Zn in selected plots that approximate to or exceed the statutory limits for these elements in sewage sludge-amended soils. The rates of cellulose decomposition were generally lower in the plots with elevated metal concentrations, relative to uncontaminated sludge-amended and unsludged controls. Generally, the metal-rich plots showed reductions in the time taken to reach 50% cotton-tensile-strength loss (CTSL). However, the reductions could not be consistently related to any one metal. The difference in decomposition rates between treatments was systematically reduced over the duration of a time-course experiment. A lower intial population of the appropriate decomposer community of micro-organisms may account for the observed short-term lag in decomposition rates.