SUBSCRIBE to our eNews and SCOPE Newsletter

 

Read earlier SCOPE and eNews editions.

The US Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance will help lead a major phosphorus research centre, with 9 US research institutes, to accelerate fundamental science and develop technologies and practices for sustainable P management. “Science and Technologies for Phosphorus Sustainability”, STEPS, is one of six new science and technology centres “to address vexing societal problems” announced by the US National Science Foundation and will receive a total of 25 million US$ in NSF funding over five years, with the possibility of a 5-year renewal. STEPS stems in part from the network of researchers launched in 2011 with the NSF P Sustainability Research Coordination Network RCN (SCOPE Newsletter n°125) and the practitioner network of the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance(SPA), with strong involvement of Jim Elser and Matt Scholz of SPA.

STEPS research is structured across three themes:

1: Human Technology Scale: physico-chemical materials and biologic material design to develop processes for capturing and releasing phosphorus species;

2: Regional and Global Scale: incorporation of these materials into structures and processes;

3: Convergence Informatics: modelling of phosphorus flows and management scenarios.

STEPS will include education - awareness and research – training actions.

STEPS is led by researchers from North Carolina State University, Arizona State University, the University of Illinois, Marquette University, RTI International, Appalachian State University, and the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.

“Alliance Helps Lead Major P Research Center”, 8 September 2021 LINK.

US National Science Foundation announcement.

STEPS: https://steps-center.org

Industry concerned that the lack of Conformity Assessment Bodies (CAB) may prevent products from obtaining access to the market under the new EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR).

The new FPR (EU) 2019/1009 (FPR) is set to apply from 16 July 2022 and requires third party certification for many products covered by this regulation. Accreditation of Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) is required so that fertilising and plant biostimulant products are able to gain access to the EU Single Market. So far, very few CABs have applied for accreditation across EU member states to date. We are concerned that the lack of CABs will prevent products covered by the FPR from accessing the Single Market, which will be detrimental to industries and farmers alike.

In this context, EBIC, ECOFI, Fertilizers Europe and IVA are urging all concerned parties to reach out to organisations qualified and eligible to act as Conformity Assessment Bodies immediately and encourage them to apply without further delay for notification. To demonstrate the potential demand for CABs, these four associations reached out to their members to make a preliminary, joint estimate of how many products are expected to be submitted for certification under the FPR in the next two years. The data was collected by a third party in full compliance with competition rules and the resulting aggregated figures were made available to the European Commission. To gain access to the data and for further information, please contact  .

The European Commission is organising a virtual info session for certification companies interested in becoming conformity assessment bodies/notified bodies entitled "Conformity assessment of EU fertilising products: WHY and HOW to become a notified body?". Interested parties can register for this on-line event by sending an e-mail to DG GROW.

Article provided by ECOFI.

Newsletter about nutrient stewardship - European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform (ESPP)

Please subscribe www.phosphorusplatform.eu/Subscribe 
Link to www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNews058
Download as PDF

ESPC4 and PERM5, Vienna, 20-22 June 2022

EU consultation on “Taxonomy”
P-recovery in EU list of top-100 green activities … but clarifications needed

Other events
DPP Forum (German Phosphorus Platform)
Hamburg Wasser – EWA – VSA online workshop on P-recovery
Phos4You Final Conference
CRU Sustainable Fertiliser Production
European Wastewater Management – full day on phosphorus
SPA “Legacy Phosphorus” webinar

Calls for input
Update and new entries for Catalogue of Nutrient Recovery Technologies
Call for abstracts: ESPC4, Vienna 2022

ESPP new Member
RecaP innovation training network (EU Marie Curie)

Policy
EU consultation on water pollutants
EU call for experts for EGTOP (Organic Farming)
EU consultation on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD)
Consultation on EU Ecolabel for Growing Media and Soil Improvers
European Commission “MSA” for P4
EU legislative proposals to further sewage circularity

Global action on phosphorus
Status of development of the Irish Nutrient Sustainability Platform
EU Environment Agency: nutrient and carbon recycling from sewage sludge

Nutrient recycling
N2 Applied field trials report
SusPhos pilot producing phosphoric acid from sludge incineration ash
Quebec: agricultural application of sewage sludge incineration ash (SSIA)

Research
Phosphorus in global agricultural product trade
Phosphates concluded to be safe as used in cosmetics
Book chapter: phosphorus in human health
Harvesting marine biomass offers nutrient and climate benefits
P-footprint of food in Brussels
Pyrolysis of sewage sludge eliminates organic contaminants
Struvite effective fertiliser for alfalfa, Manitoba, Canada
Recycled P for Canada’s Organic farming
Struvite tested for use in hydroponics
Lab tests of sewage sludge incineration ash (SSIA) in fertiliser production
Review of fertiliser value of sewage sludge incineration ash (SSIA)
Pot trials of P-fertiliser from digestates
Possibilities for P-recycling from baby nappies
Climate change and plant P uptake
Plant phosphorus in diet causes health problems

Erratum
Global peatlands phosphorus and carbon

Stay informed

ESPP members

 

ESPC4 and PERM5, Vienna, 20-22 June 2022

espc4 enews 58 2The 4th European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference (ESPC4) will be the biggest phosphorus stakeholder meeting globally for 4 years (since ESPC3 Helsinki, which attracted 300 participants from 30 countries SCOPE Newsletter n°127).

ESPC4, Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st June 2022, will be followed by PERM5, the 5th Phosphorus in Europe Research Meeting, Wednesday 22nd June 2022 (summary of PERM4, June 2021, online, coming soon here).

ESPC4 will include a Nutrient Recovery Technology Fair, with stands, presentations and possibility to meet technology suppliers presented in the ESPP-DPP-NNP Catalogue of Nutrient Recovery Technologies, currently being updated (see below).

ESPC4 - PERM5 will be both in-person in Vienna and accessible online.

The updated outline programme of ESPC4 and a call for abstracts for presentations and posters for ESPC4 are now online

https://phosphorusplatform.eu/espc4

 

EU consultation on “Taxonomy”

P-recovery in EU list of top-100 green activities … but clarifications needed

The EU Taxonomy will classify which economic activities, and when, are considered environmentally sustainable, so eligible for EU Green Deal investment. It may become a key tool for private investors, markets, other public policies. Phosphorus recovery from sewage is one of the 100 activities listed (at the same level as e.g. livestock production, crop production, hotels and accommodation …) but N-recovery or P-recovery from other streams is not cited.

Consultation open to 24th September 2021, 18h00 deadline (not midnight).

 

The unified EU-wide classification system (“EU Taxonomy”) will establish an operational list of economic activities, with technical screening criteria (TSC), determining in which cases each economic activity makes a ‘substantial contribution’ to an environmental objective. The Taxonomy Regulation (2020/852) defines six eligible environmental objectives: Climate change mitigation, Climate change adaptation, Water and marine resources, Circular economy, Pollution prevention and control, Biodiversity and ecosystems.

The EU has now published a report (over 1 000 pages including the annex) proposing criteria for classifying when a wide range of different industries and activities can thus be considered environmentally friendly, covering (amongst many others) agriculture (both livestock and crop production), sewage treatment, waste management ... The report and its annex propose TSC (Technical Screening Criteria for “substantial contribution” to sustainability) and criteria for DNSH (Do No Significant Harm, under Pollution Prevention and Control).

The consultation, based on the published report draft Taxonomy categories and criteria, enables public comment, for each of the nearly one hundred activities / industries listed, to comment on the description/boundaries of the activity and the proposed criteria (TSC and DNSH): ambition level of criteria, key factors missing from criteria, feasibility of implementation, comparison to state of the art, scientific justification, possible improvements of wording or clarifications.

Phosphorus recovery from waste water is one of nearly one hundred activities for which Technical Screening Criteria are proposed (Annex B, pages 922-927).

However, the proposal is limited, somewhat imprecise and in places confused:

  • It refers only to P-recovery from municipal wastewater (it is under $12: “Sewage”)
  • Only P-recovery, recovery of N or other nutrients or organic carbon are not considered
  • Only two specific routes are considered:
    - P-recovery integrated into the wastewater treatment plant, with recovery of >10% of inflow sewage works P (e.g. struvite)
    - P-recovery from sewage sludge mono-incineration ash by chemical or thermal process, with recovery of > 80% of inflow
  • The text inappropriately compares energy consumption in the above P-recovery routes to that in production of P4
  • It seems to be assumed that all recovered P materials will be used as fertiliser, whereas recovered phosphoric acid can be used in high added-value technical applications
  • Close reference is made to the German P-recovery legislation, but no mention of the Swiss legislation, which is of interest as regards implementation and state-of-the-art even if not in the EU
  • No requirements, or inappropriate, are proposed on contaminant separation in the recovery process, safety and quality of the recovered P product (it is stated that it will be “a material with a real market demand ensuring its reasonable use” but then conformity only to the old EU fertilisers regulation 2003/2003 is specified)

ESPP will input to this consultation addressing the questions above.

ESPP members and other stakeholders reading this eNews are recommended to reply to this EU public consultation, suggesting other technologies for inclusion in this section on “P-recovery”, inclusion of technologies for N-recovery, or suggesting inclusion of nutrient recovery in other sections, e.g. 1.1 Agriculture – animal production; 2.19 – Manufacture of food & beverages – circular economy; 11 - Water supply / desalination; 13.5 – Recovery of bio-waste by AD and/or composting; 13.8 – Material recovery of non-hazardous waste.

For water, the proposed criteria are based on achieving good environmental status of fresh or marine waters (as defined under the Water Framework and Marine Strategy Framework Directives), or preventing deterioration of waters in good status.

For agriculture, proposed criteria for both animal and crop production include limiting nutrient losses, in particular by a farm-gate nitrogen balance and minimum nitrogen use efficiency (NUE). ESPP will input that these criteria should be widened to include phosphorus. A livestock feeding plan, specifying feed nutrient content, and an annual crop nutrient management plan, including soil testing every 3-5 years for N and every 5 years for P, are also indicated under DNSH.

EU public consultation on “Taxonomy”, open to 24th September 18h00 CEST (not midnight). This page includes overview, links to the report and annex with proposed categories and criteria, and link to the public consultation questionnaire: https://ec.europa.eu/info/publications/210803-sustainable-finance-platform-technical-screening-criteria-taxonomy-report_en With thanks to EBA for alerting ESPP to this consultation.

  

 

Other events

 

DPP Forum (German Phosphorus Platform)

9th September Frankfurt-am-Main and online. Bringing recycled phosphates to the market. In German

Programme and registration here.

 

Hamburg Wasser – EWA – VSA online workshop on P-recovery

21st September 10h30-13h00, online broadcast from the Remondis P-recovery plant, Hamburg, Germany: first full-scale operational experience of P-recovery in Hamburg, update on P-recovery in Switzerland, etc. The event is organised by Hamburg Wasser (city-owned municipal water company), with EWA (European Water Association, a water profession association with members across much of Europe) and input from VSA (Swiss Association of Water Protection Professionals)

Registration here.

 

Phos4You Final Conference

22 – 23 September, presentation of Phos4You (InterReg) project outcomes, presentations of trials of P-recovery technologies, regulatory developments, LCA aspects. With European Commission DG GROW and DG AGRI and InterReg Secretariat. Technologies presented will be: EuPhoRe, bioacidification & STRUVIA struvite, PULSE (Liège University), Parforce, Filtraflo (crab carapace P-adsorption), micro-algae.

In-person capacity is now fully booked, but online registration is still open.  Phos4You website for programme etc. Registration here.

 

CRU Sustainable Fertiliser Production

Online industry conference addressing fertiliser industry carbon footprint, emissions tax systems, Green and Blue Ammonia and Hydrogen, CO2 capture and (23rd September afternoon) phosphogypsum recycling and P-recovery.

20-23 September, online https://events.crugroup.com/sustainableferttech

 

European Wastewater Management – full day on phosphorus

28-29 September, Birmingham UK and online, European Wastewater Management Conference (EWWM, AquaEnviro) with a full day (28 September) on P-removal and P-recycling. Updates on technologies to achieve low phosphorus discharge constraints and on catchment P management, from Welsh Water, United Utilites, Yorkshire Water, Severn Trent Water, Thames Water and from technology suppliers / deliverers Arvia, Stantec, Brightwork BV, Bluewater Bio, Evoqua, WPL.

EWWM, 28-29 September 2021 https://ewwmconference.com/

 

SPA “Legacy Phosphorus” webinar

30th September, 18h-19h30 CEST (Brussels/Paris summer time), organised by the US Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance. The webinar aims to describe the global magnitude of the “legacy P problem”, where phosphorus from past applications overwhelms soil P storage capacity and leaks into surface waters, to discuss soil chemistry of “legacy P” and techniques for dealing with the resulting P losses to water bodies. With Dean Hesterberg, Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials, Isis Scott, University of Maryland, and Jean-Olivier Goyette, University of Montreal.

Online, free, information and registration here:

https://asu.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_I_KBf7BQSJeShoGrXskmIg

 

 

Calls for input

 

Update and new entries for Catalogue of Nutrient Recovery Technologies

ESPP, DPP and NNP are updating the Catalogue of Nutrient Recovery Technologies summarising processes for recovery of nutrients from sewage, manure or other sources. Information is invited on technologies to be added. To be included, technologies should be operational or demonstrated at full-scale or pilot scale, and should recover phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium and/or micro-nutrients. The catalogue provides practical data and information on: technology supplier(s) (website, contact), process input materials (sewage sludge, ash, manure …), output products (nutrient content, organic carbon content and other properties), process description (in particular indicating fate of contaminants), current operating status (number and capacity of plants operating, capacity of pilots and duration of continuous operation) and photos of installations.

To include further technologies in the Catalogue: send information, as specified above and if possible in the format of (column titles) the Catalogue as currently online here to

ESPP - DPP - NNP Catalogue of Nutrient Recovery Technologies: http://www.phosphorusplatform.eu/p-recovery-technology-inventory

 

Call for abstracts: ESPC4, Vienna 2022

A new call for abstracts for presentations and posters is now open for the 4th European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference, Vienna 20-22 June 2022. Deadline 30th November 2021. Proposed presentations should address the conference parallel session themes (see updated outline programme here): Policy tools and business models, Climate change links to phosphorus management, New fertilisers for nutrient sustainability, P-recycling R&D and new technologies, Regions in action for phosphorus sustainability. Posters can address any theme relating to phosphorus sustainability. Abstract submission instructions are on the conference website here.

ESPC4 – PERM5 website: https://phosphorusplatform.eu/espc4 


 

ESPP new Member

 

RecaP innovation training network (EU Marie Curie)

The RecaP project, an H2020 MSCA-ITN led by University of Southern Denmark (SDU), will train 15 PhD students with support from 23 industrial and research organizations in 10 countries. RecaP stands for “Capture, recycling and societal management of phosphorus in the environment” and aims to contribute to sustainable phosphorus changes across the globe. Our international collaboration addresses the world's changing Phosphorus needs by creating a new generation of Phosphorus specialists to become ‘knowledge brokers’ across disciplinary silos with their interdisciplinary skills, experience and networks, ensuring transformative changes in P sustainability in the EU. RecaP will not just explore the technical aspects of the global P challenge, but also where such solutions can be implemented in a way that is socially, economically, and environmentally acceptable. The 15 PhD projects fall into one of five themes: the capture and recycling of P from wastewater and freshwater systems, novel P recovery techniques, strategies to improve crop utilization of P, novel freshwater restoration techniques, and barriers and enablers to policy and economic transformation to support recycling. All activities are connected to one another in order to create novel insights that can help create new P governance.

By becoming a member of the ESPP, RecaP joins the strong collaboration of partners contributing to a long-term vision for phosphorus sustainability in Europe and the world.

The RecaP project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skƚodowska-Curie grant agreement No 956454. Website.

 

 

Policy

EU consultation on water pollutants

The EU has opened a public consultation to 1st November 2021 on pollutants to surface and groundwaters, asking about types of chemical, sectors, types of regulation and possible sources of further information. The consultation, set in the context of the Green Deal and the Zero Pollution Action Plan, is open to both the general public and to stakeholder organisations, and is mainly general questions asking about defining priorities for concern. Chemicals and sectors mentioned include agriculture, fertilisers, pesticides, waste water treatment, pharmaceuticals, micro-plastics, household chemicals, chemicals released from household items (e.g. flame retardants). The ‘Roadmap’ prior to this consultation (10/2020) suggests that regulatory policy options after this consultation could include modifications of the current lists of chemicals designated as ‘Priority Hazardous’, ‘Priority’, ‘Watch List’ or Groundwater ‘Pollutants’ lists under the Water Framework, Environmental Quality Standards or Groundwater Directives. Currently the EU Water Framework Directive “Watch List” includes certain pharmaceuticals (e.g; Diclofenac (anti-inflammatory), Ethinylestradiol (contraceptive) …). Phosphorus is listed in the Groundwater Directive since 2014, so requiring Member States to define threshold values and monitor concentrations of phosphorus (P) in groundwater.

Water Framework Directive “Priority” and “Priority Hazardous” substances list as specified by Annex II of Directive 2008/105/EC and eight other substances for which environmental quality standards for these substances are included in the Environmental Quality Standards Directive 2008/105/EC: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-framework/priority_substances.htm

Surface water chemicals “Watch List” COM 2018/840  https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32018D0840

Groundwater Directive 2006/118/EC list of “Minimum list of pollutants and their indicators for which Member States have to consider establishing threshold values” (Annex II, Part B) https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:02006L0118-20140711

Directive on Environmental Quality Standards (Directive 2008/105/EC) https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32008L0105

EU public consultation, open to 1st November 2021: “Integrated water management – revised lists of surface and groundwater pollutants” LINK.

 

EU call for experts for EGTOP (Organic Farming)

Call for applications for selection of members of EGTOP, the Expert Group for Technical Advice on Organic Production, open to 15th September 2021 here.

EU consultation on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD)

The EU has opened a public and stakeholder consultation to 21st October 2021 for the review of the MSFD, noting that Member States were supposed to achieve marine Good Environmental Status by 2020. Questions address the state of Europe’s marine environment, definition of Good Environmental State (GES) and is this definition clear and coherent?, effectiveness of different policy actions, obstacles to achieving GES, benefits of the Directive, resources allocated by Member States for MSFD actions, coherence with other EU policies, added value of the Directive. Two questions specifically mention nutrients: proposed actions the public is ready to do (proposed option: eat less meat and fish, so reducing nutrient losses) and ‘Descriptors’ characterising Good Environmental Status for marine waters (one option: excess nutrients). ESPP will input underlining the need to reduce N and P inputs to coastal waters, with Marine Region nutrient reduction targets, coherent with the Farm-to-Fork -50% nutrient loss target 2030, and actions in EU agricultural and water policies. ESPP will also emphasise the links between coastal eutrophication and climate change.

EU public consultation, open to 21st October 2021: “Protecting the marine environment – review of EU rules” LINK.

 

Consultation on EU Ecolabel for Growing Media and Soil Improvers

Comments are open to 19/9/2021 on draft revised EU Ecolabel criteria for Growing Media and Soil Improvers. Resource-efficient use of nutrients is emphasised and some % recycled materials requirements are proposed. The proposals, however, in fact suggest a minimum 30% of “organic” components (not necessarily recycled) or alternatively a minimum 30% recycled content of mineral components. Furthermore, these requirements are proposed for Growing Media only, not for Soil Improvers. ESPP will input suggesting that the proposed 30% minimum content of recycled or secondary materials should apply to both organic and mineral components, and also specifically to nutrients (P and N) where significant in the product. ESPP will also comment regarding definitions of phosphorus content, definition of “organic” and “biological origin” (exclude “fossil” materials) and coherence of specifications with the EU Fertilising Products Regulation.

Draft revised EU Ecolabel criteria for Growing Media and Soil Improvers (download the document titled “ANNEX_Stakeholders consultation July – September. Draft proposal of the Commission Decision that establishes EU Ecolabel criteria for growing media and soil improvers” and the document “Table for comments” necessary to submit your comments). Deadline 19th September 2021 https://susproc.jrc.ec.europa.eu/product-bureau/product-groups/450/documents

 

European Commission “MSA” for P4

The EU (JRC) has published the Material System Analysis (“MSA”) for elemental phosphorus (P4 / white phosphorus), using the JRC Critical Raw Materials common methodology and drawing on the workshop co-organised with ESPP (2020, full summary, see SCOPE Newsletter n°136). The MSA for P4 is published along with those of eight other materials added to the EU Critical Raw Materials List (CRM) in 2017 (as was P4). The EU MSA methodology was developed by Deloitte in 2015 (see critique of the MSA for phosphate rock in SCOPE Newsletter n°119) and updated by JRC (Torres de Matos et al. 2020). It aims to provide a data set for each material for flows and stocks in the EU, so highlighting hotspots, bottlenecks and possibilities for circularity.

The elemental phosphorus (P4) MSA identifies that although this represents only 2-3% of total phosphate rock use, P4 and its derivatives are essential for a wide range of end-uses including fire safety, water treatment, catalysts, lubricants, electronics, pharmaceuticals … P4 is produced from phosphate rock in specific high-temperature furnaces, with high energy consumption. Europe has today no P4 furnace, and is dependent on imports, principally from Kazakhstan, Vietnam and China (not necessarily in this order of magnitude).

Many phosphorus chemicals, and also the extremely high-purity phosphoric acid needed in electronics, can only today be feasibly produced via P4 (from P4 or from P4 derivatives). Because of the energy cost of P4 production, phosphate fertilisers, animal feed phosphates, detergent phosphates (but not phosphonates) are today produced from phosphate rock via phosphoric acid (“wet acid route”), followed by purification, and this is increasingly also the case for (human) food phosphates and metal treatment. The MSA notes that use of P4 derived chemicals in lithium-ion batteries, currently limited, may significantly increase in the future.

The MSA concludes that the EU is overall self-sufficient in manufacture of end-use chemicals reliant on P4 / P4 derivatives, but is entirely dependent on import of P4 / P4 derivatives for this manufacture.

Recycling of P4 is today inexistent (the MSA concludes EOL-RIR and EOL-RR both zero), but JRC notes that recycling of P-based flame retardants may develop, and that several projects are looking at producing P4 in the EU from phosphorus-rich wastes, in particular sewage sludge incineration ash.

Lastly, JRC underlines the difficulties in establishing quantitative data on P4 flows, because currently significant uses can be based on either “wet-acid” or P4 derivatives.

“Material System Analysis of Nine Raw Materials: Barytes, Bismuth, Hafnium, Helium, Natural Rubber, Phosphorus, Scandium, Tantalum and Vanadium”, C. Torres de Matos et al., European Commission JRC, EUR 30704 EN, 2021 DOI

 

 

EU legislative proposals to further sewage circularity

Eureau, the European water sector federation, has proposed changes to EU water and waste regulations to facilitate recycling from sewage. Eureau says the objectives of sewage sludge recycling, stated in the Urban Waste Water Treatment (UWWTD) and the Sewage Sludge Directives should be grouped and clarified in one legal instrument. Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) obligations concerning emissions of industrial chemicals into municipal sewage networks should be tightened to ensure better upstream information of water operators and to exclude all risks of discharge of SVHC (Substances of Very High Concern). Regulatory status of anaerobic digesters treating a mixture of sewage sludge and other organic materials should be clarified. End-of-Waste criteria should be developed for materials recovered from sewage.

Eureau July 2021: Position paper “Enabling the circular potential of sewage sludge within the EU legislative framework. A critical analysis of the current urban waste water treatment sludge legislation with respect to the circular economy” www.eaureau.org and direct link HERE.

 

 

 

Global action on phosphorus

 

Status of development of the Irish Nutrient Sustainability Platform

Following stakeholder meetings, this all-Ireland platform aims to support nutrient circularity and expects an initial 20+ paying members. The all-Ireland Nutrient Sustainability Platform (INSP) project was initiated with an Ireland EPA study in 2014. This led to a “Founders Day” stakeholder meeting in 2019 with nineteen industry, governmental and academic organisations present. This Day validated a platform vision and mission, a proposed structure, budget and funding model. The aim is to employ a full-time platform manager. The budget, as now reviewed, aims for c. 50% funding from membership fees (approx.. 20 members), and the remainder from research grants or projects. Signature of members is now ongoing.

“An Irish Nutrient Sustainability Platform to underpin sustainable development”, Ireland EPA Report n°381, June 2021, V. O’Flaherty et al., 51 pages HERE.

 

 

EU Environment Agency: nutrient and carbon recycling from sewage sludge

The Agency estimates that P-recovery from 50% of the sewage sludge currently not valorised to farmland could replace up to 10% of fertiliser P, with potential also for recovery of N and S. The study considers that the potential of sewage sludge to increase soil fertility by input of organic carbon cannot be calculated with available data. The study is based on Eurostat data for 2018 or 2017 full implementation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive requirements for sewage collection and treatment (but does not take into account possible more stringent nutrient requirements resulting from the Water Framework Directive or other policies). It assumes 100% valorisation of phosphorus in sewage sludge applied to farmland (after composting and/or anaerobic digestion), mono-incineration of 50% of sewage sludge not applied to farmland and 90% P-recovery from mono-incineration ash.

In 2017-2018, some 10.4 million tonnes (DM/y) of sewage sludge were produced in the EU (17 gDM/capita/year), with 83% of the population connected to sewerage (sewage collection systems). Destination of sewage sludge is unclear, because different Member States have categories such as “other” or “compost”, but probably 48% is used in agriculture, 23% incinerated and 28% is landfilled or otherwise disposed.

The study specifically looks at four countries (Estonia, Germany, Italy and Sweden) and at two case studies of contaminants (DEHP, a phthalate used widely in PVC and benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) and polycyclic aromatic carbon released in smoke (wood and other fuels, tobacco, barbecues …).

The European Environment Agency concludes that 1% - 10% of P fertiliser used in the EU (in 2018) could be replaced by P in sewage sludge, via agricultural use and application of P-recovery to half of the ash where sludge is incinerated.

There is also potential to recover and additional 3 500 GWh electricity (on top of current production) if sludge currently landfilled or composted is instead anaerobically digested (to produce biogas methane).

Currently agricultural use of sewage sludge represents nearly 1% of EU nitrogen fertiliser use, but this could be increased if N was recovered in sewage treatment rather than denitrified to N2 released to the air.

The report recommends:

  • Improvements to sewage sludge data in Europe, in particular concerning treatment and disposal routes;
  • Further analysis of the energy, nutrient and organic carbon potential of sewage sludges;
  • Action to reduce contaminant inputs upstream of sewage works, and also investigation of new solutions in sewage and sludge treatment to address contaminants.

“Sewage sludge and the circular economy”, European Environment Agency, N. Anderson et al., 17th May 2021, 138 pages. Online here.

 

 

Nutrient recycling

N2 Applied field trials report

ESPP member, N2 Applied has published results showing that their process treating manure resulted in higher wheat protein yields, NUE comparable to mineral N fertiliser and reduced manure ammonia and methane emissions. N2 Applied supplies on-farm units which condition and nitrogen-enrich manure (or other organic materials) using only air and electricity (see ESPP eNews n°33). The resulting Nitrogen Enriched Organic Fertiliser (NEO) has a better N:P ratio than manure. Ammonia and methane emissions in manure storage and use are avoided. In 2020, field trials were carried out using the NEO fertiliser on wheat at ten locations in Scandinavia, the UK and South Africa. Results show that the N2 Applied NEO fertiliser led nearly always to higher wheat protein content (average +41%). The trials also showed NUE (nitrogen use efficiency) comparable to mineral nitrogen fertiliser and considerably better than for manure/slurry. The trials in Sweden and in the UK also showed near zero loss of ammonia and methane with N2 Applied, compared to 0.25 kg ammonia and 0.48 kg methane loss per tonne of untreated manure (over 108 summer days).

“Performance Report 2020. NEO by N2 Applied” here.

 

SusPhos pilot producing phosphoric acid from sludge incineration ash

A 25 kg ash/day pilot is being tested in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, using sewage sludge incineration ash to produce phosphoric acid. The first step of the process is based on the same overall principles as others already operational or under development (EasyMining AshtoPhos, Remondis Tetraphos, ZAR/Técnicas Reunidas Phos4Life, …): attack of the ash using acid, but the subsequent processing does not use water, relying on solvent extraction to separate out purified phosphoric acid. By-products are iron/aluminium salts (for recycling to sewage works for P-removal). Heavy metals are fixed into inert an insoluble minerals stream, potentially valorisable in construction, and iron and aluminium are removed and recovered as recyclable salts.  SusPhos claim that the proprietary organic solvent and extraction process used enable production of high quality phosphoric acid and >95%  heavy metal removal in a cost-effective, simple system without ion exchange or membranes  In addition, the process can produce high-purity ammonium phosphates in a simple add-on step. The SusPhos process has also been adapted to use struvite as input, with ongoing development for iron phosphate (vivianite) The developers will start a 4 000 kt/y pilot in October 2021 and indicate the aim to build a full-scale plant (50 000 t/y input) in the Netherlands in coming years.

“Recycling: SusPhos maakt de fosfaatcirkel rond”, VNCI Royal Association of the Dutch Chemical industry, July 2021, LINK.

 

Quebec: agricultural application of sewage sludge incineration ash (SSIA)

SSIA from Montreal sewage works has been used directly as an agricultural amendment since 2016 with c. 8 000 tonnes of ash applied to farmland in 2020. The ashes are classed by agronomic value (P and lime contents). A report prepared on request of the Jean-R. Marcotte wastewater treatment plant, Montreal, presents in detail the use of the sewage sludge incineration ashes as an agricultural fertiliser. 15% of the 50 000 tonnes of sewage produced by the sewage works were spread on farmland in 2020. The ashes can be sorted into three categories:

  • Fertil Cendres. Minimum 0.6% “available” phosphorus (as P), pH < 11.3. This material is registered by the Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and can be used as a fertiliser.
  • Fertil Cendres PLUS. Minimum 1.3% “available” phosphorus (as P). A new registration is pending.
  • Liming ash. pH > 11.3

“Available” phosphorus is defined as NAC (neutral ammonium citrate) soluble, generally considered to be a good indicator of plant availability

The wastewater treatment work’s sewage sludge incineration ash contains an average of 3.7% total phosphorus (P), range 1.2% - 6.5%, and average 1.9%, range 0.4% - 7.4% plant “available” (as P). The ash contains nearly zero nitrogen and only 1.2% potassium (average, as K). Because the soluble potassium is lost to water in the sewage works, the remaining K is mostly not plant available. Heavy metal and dioxin levels meet the Canada CFIA regulation requirements. The liming ash can meet the requirements of BNQ 0419-090, Quebec Standard for “Liming materials from industrial processes”.

The report notes that in 2020 the agricultural use of the ash costs more than landfill disposal, but that changes in landfill tax and a tax on incineration (resulting from the Quebec Organic Matter Recovery Strategy, see SCOPE Newsletter n°134) could make the agricultural use of sludge ash cost-effective in coming years.

Hébert, M. 2021. « Recyclage agricole des cendres de boues d’épuration municipales de Montréal ‐

État des lieux et optimisation des pratiques ». In French, 71 pages, inc. 3-page English summary. http://marchebert.ca/publications/

The report will be presented in English at the NEBRA (US North East Biosolids and Residuals Association Conference, 7th October 2021.

 

Research

 

Phosphorus in global agricultural product trade

P in traded crops and livestock products (not including P traded in fertilisers, phosphoric acid, other chemicals, phosphate rock) is estimated to be c. 16% of that in harvested biomass. This means an estimate of 17.5 MtP/y in harvested biomass, which compares to the ESPP Phosphorus Factsheet estimate of 17 – 24 MtP/y in phosphate rock mined annually worldwide. The study estimates a global cropland soil P budget (inputs, outputs) assuming losses by leaching + runoff of 12.5% (based on Bouwman 2013). P in globally traded crops and livestock products is estimated at 2.8 million tonnes P / year (2014), of which 70% in soybean (0.71 MtP/y), wheat (0.66 MtP/y) and maize (0.54 MtP/y). Only 12 countries were net P exporters and the biggest net P-exporters were the USA and Brazil, the biggest net importer was China (note: this concerns only P in crops and livestock products traded). The authors estimate that global trade in agricultural products saves net c. 0.2 MtP/y (ESPP note: c. 1% of global fertiliser use) because of different P use efficiencies between countries. The authors underline that much larger savings could be made by global cooperation to improve PUE (phosphorus use efficiency). The paper includes eleven very visual diagrams illustrating P-flows between countries, by crop type, importing and exporting countries, fertiliser savings vs. wastage.

“Influences of international agricultural trade on the global phosphorus cycle and its associated issues”, F. Lun et al., Global Environmental Change 69 (2021) 102282, DOI.

 

Phosphates concluded to be safe as used in cosmetics

A 52-page analysis of toxicology data on phosphoric acid and 30 inorganic phosphate salts, based on over 150 references, concludes that they are safe “as used” in cosmetics. The review covers phosphoric acid and calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium phosphates, metaphosphates and pyrophosphates. The most widely used inorganic phosphates in cosmetics are indicated to be phosphoric acid (mostly in wash-off products) and dicalcium phosphates (mostly leave-on). Dicalcium phosphate is indicated to be used at up to 50% in toothpastes. The review considers skin irritation, oral toxicity, accidental inhalation and possible long-term effects. Phosphoric acid is irritating and corrosive at low pH. The analysis concludes that all of these inorganic phosphates are safe for use in cosmetics when formulated to be not irritating.

“Safety Assessment of Phosphoric Acid and Its Salts as Used in Cosmetics”, W. Johnson et al., International Journal of Toxicology 2021, Vol. 40(Supplement 1) 34S-85S DOI.

The authors are all affiliated to the Expert Panel for Cosmetic Ingredient Safety, part of the “Cosmetic Ingredient Review”. The organisation is financially supported by the US cosmetics industry (Personal Care Products Council) and supported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Federation of America and its reviews are “independent” of the industry trade body.

 

Book chapter: phosphorus in human health

This 88-page review includes some emerging human health research areas such as phytate, phosphate polymers and phosphorus action as a signalling molecule. The authors note that levels of P in human diets worldwide are on average twice that needed by the body, posing questions of possible health effects of high P intake, especially with phosphate food additives which are much more bio-assimilable than most P in foodstuffs. Phytate, a widespread form of P in plant materials (see SCOPE Newsletter n°109) is generally considered to be not digested by humans, so that its P content is not absorbed in the gut. However, recent research shows that some phytate may be available, especially if the diet is low in calcium. Dietary phytate has benefits of reducing absorption of fat and sugar from food, but can also reduce absorption of essential minerals such as Zn, Fe, Ca. Mechanisms of P homeostasis in the body are detailed, including the roles of calcitonin, vitamin D, PTH (parathyroid hormone), GFG23 and Klotho. Possible health effects of high blood phosphorus (serum orthophosphorus = Pi) are suggested including feedback on these signalling molecules, insulin secretion, bone health, calcification of arteries and modification of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC), brain health (possibly linked to Pi levels in CSF – cerebrospinal fluid), kidney health, cell autophagy (self-destruction) and ageing. Inorganic polyphosphate polymers, found in mammal cells at very low levels, are an emerging area of research. They appear to be involved in energy storage, would healing and inflammation, protection of protein structure, neuron health and vascular functions. The authors suggest that more research is needed into possible health impacts of high diet P, in particular on brain health, and into possible induced changes in polyphosphate levels.

“The emerging role of phosphorus in human health”, P. Bird & N. Eskin, Advances in Food and Nutrition Research, Volume 96, 2021 DOI.

 

Harvesting marine biomass offers nutrient and climate benefits

Blue-green circular economy: LCA for seven examples of harvesting cultivated or spontaneous biomass from the sea shows benefits for climate and for eutrophication mitigation. All cases studied were in the Baltic or Kattegat Seas. Four aquaculture cases: mariculture of sugar kelp (Saccharina latissimi, used for production of fuels or chemicals), blue mussels (for food, at two sites), and ascidians (sea squirts, for food). Three cases of spontaneous biomass: invasive Pacific oysters (aquaculture of this species is forbidden, but it is harvested for control purposes and then sold as food), common reed (Phragmites) and harvest of mixed beach-cast seaweed. LCA analysis show that the emissions of CO2-equiv and of phosphorus to water related to harvesting and supply chain activities are low, compared to N, P and C contained in the harvested biomass, so that all seven cases contributed positively to mitigation of eutrophication and to net climate emissions reduction, as well as bringing benefits such as improved water quality and clean seafronts. Discussions with stakeholders underlined the need to improve science evidence of benefits of such blue-green economy activities, which are often locally specific, in order to support discussions with policy makers and investors. Stakeholders noted the challenges posed by complex and outdated regulatory landscapes.

“Marine biomass for a circular blue-green bioeconomy?: A life cycle perspective on closing nitrogen and phosphorus land-marine loops”, J-B. Thomas et al., Journal of Industrial Ecology 2021;1–18 DOI.

 

 

P-footprint of food in Brussels

The phosphorus footprint for Brussels Capital Region is calculated as (average) 7.7 kgP/person/year, that is ten times higher than the actual food intake of 0.7 kgP/year (1.9 gP/day). The study is based on estimated consumption of 19 different food groups, derived from the Belgian Household Budget Survey 2014, average nutrient content for each food group and estimates of P-inputs to produce each foodstuff, based on feed consumption I livestock-producing regions and fertiliser use in crop-growing countries compared to food product outputs. 60% of the inputs to food production are from manure (ESPP comment: this could be considered as “recycled P”, so not as “input” to the P-footprint) and 40% from mineral fertiliser). The study assumes 100% recycling of P in food waste and sewage sludge (this optimistic assumption leads to a conservative estimate of the P-footprint (underestimate).

Most of the P inputs are for livestock production, and a shift to vegetarian or vegan diets would reduce the P-footprint to 4.8 kgPperson//year –40%) or 0.9 kgP/person/year (-90%) respectively. The authors also conclude that consuming only food produced in Belgium would increase the P-footprint because of high manure use in Flanders.

“A resource-based phosphorus footprint for urban diets”, A. Papangelou et al., Environ. Res. Lett. 16 (2021) 075002 DOI.

 

 

Pyrolysis of sewage sludge eliminates organic contaminants

An up-to-date review of published data on biochars shows that organic contaminants and microplastics in sewage sludge are largely destroyed, resulting in a safe product. This is a response to the EU’s decision to exclude sewage sludge from inputs to “Pyrolysis and gasification materials” used in fertilising products (EU Fertilising Products Regulation STRUBIAS criteria) and the European Commission JRC STRUBIAS report (DOI see page 138) which “recommends that the scientific knowledge base be further developed in order to demonstrate that the use of EU fertilising products derived from (specific) pyrolysis & gasification materials does not present an unacceptable risk”. The review identifies 20 studies with data on over 100 different organic pollutants: over 50 different pharmaceuticals, PFAS, several organic consumer chemicals, dioxins, PCBs, PAHs, hydrocarbons, hormones, antibiotic resistance genes (ABRs), microplastics. This data shows that pyrolysis at 500°C (and in some cases also at lower temperatures) reduces levels of nearly all of these contaminants by >99%. In many cases, such as for microplastics or PFAS, contaminants were reduced below detection limits. Pharmaceuticals were mostly reduced by >99% to non-detectable levels. The authors note that in some cases, the organic contaminants may be not eliminated but transferred to the vapor phase. However, modern pyrolysis installations include higher temperature post-combustion, to recover energy and this will eliminate such contaminants and prevent environmental contamination.

A previous paper (2020) shows that doping sewage sludge with potassium salts before pyrolysis significantly improves the plant availability of phosphorus in biochar, as well as providing potassium to plants.

“Unlocking the Fertilizer Potential of Waste-Derived Biochar”, W. Buss et al., ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. 2020, 8, 12295−12303, DOI.

“Pyrolysis Solves the Issue of Organic Contaminants in Sewage Sludge while Retaining CarbonMaking the Case for Sewage Sludge Treatment via Pyrolysis”, W. Buss, ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. 2021 DOI.

 

 

Struvite effective fertiliser for alfalfa, Manitoba, Canada

Recovered struvite (Ostara) improved alfalfa productivity in the field (clay soil, low phosphorus Olsen P 2.6, pH 8.1). No nitrogen fertiliser was applied (alfalfa is a nitrogen-fixing legume) to simulate Organic Farming. In the 3-year field trial, struvite increased forage shoot growth biomass and shoot P concentration, with increased effect in the second and third years, despite application of struvite only in the first year. Fertiliser P-recovery was c. 26% after three years. Pot trials were also carried out with alfalfa, comparing struvite to mono ammonium phosphate (MAP) in soil with Olsen P 10 pH 7.1 and Olsen P 6 pH 8.0. In the pot trials, alfalfa response to both struvite and MAP only showed at the highest application rate in the neutral soil (in this case, struvite gave similar results to MAP) and not at all in the alkaline soil, suggesting that alfalfa had sufficient P available in these soils. The authors conclude that recovered struvite is an effective P source for Organically grown alfalfa and so could help alleviate P deficits in Organic Farm systems reliant on biological nitrogen fixation.

“Efficacy of struvite as a phosphorus source for alfalfa in organic cropping systems”, J. Thiessen Martens et al., EGU21-8078 LINK. This study was supported by Ostara.

 

Recycled P for Canada’s Organic farming

Review concludes that Organic farm systems are often P-deficient and recycled nutrients could help address this, e.g. insect frass (from processing food waste), struvite from municipal wastewater or food waste digestate. Several cited references show that Organic farms tend to be phosphorus deficient, especially when relying on BNF = Biological Nitrogen Fixation. (Welsh 2009, Reimer 2020 – see ESPP eNews n°49, Entz 2001, Knight 2010, Gosling 2005. ESPP note: also Ohm 2017). Insect frass (waste from insect production) from insects fed food waste and food waste digestate are both approved for Organic farming in Canada. Struvite from livestock manure or from plant wastes is approved, but not struvite from sewage. Several studies cited show that insect frass can be an effective fertiliser (although high doses may inhibit plants, possibly because of ammonium levels), but further research is needed into frass from insects fed other materials. Food waste digestates have also been shown to be effective fertilisers, with improvement possible by post-digestion processing. Many studies show the fertiliser effectiveness of struvite. The Canadian population generates c. 3 million tonnes P / year in human waste and food waste, i.e. only c. 8% of Canada’s P-fertiliser imports (whereas sewage alone represents 50 – 60% of Europe’s P-fertiliser imports). However, this potential for recycled P is considerably greater than current needs of Canada’s Organic Farms, but with the need to redistribute from populated to agricultural regions. The authors conclude that incorporating recycled nutrients into agriculture is essential for food security and sustainability and could contribute to ameliorating phosphorus deficiencies in Organic Farming. Barriers to uptake by Organic farmers are likely to be supply availability of recycled fertilisers, logistics / transport and cost.

“Recycled Nutrients as a Phosphorus Source for Canadian Organic Agriculture: A perspective.”, J. Nicksy & M. Entz, Canadian Journal of Soil Science, 2021,  DOI.

 

Struvite tested for use in hydroponics

Lab tests show that struvite is an effective fertiliser for use in hydroponics, applied as granules in the perlite substrate for French beans. The struvite used was Suez PhosCareTM PhosphogreenTM from Aarhusvand A/S municipal sewage works, Denmark (see SCOPE Newsletter n°125), as granules 0.5 – 1.5 mm diameter. Because struvite has a low water solubility, it does not directly dissolve into the hydroponic nutrient solution, so it was mixed with perlite in a perforated plastic bag (holes < 1 mm), into which the beans were planted (as 14-day old seedlings) and grown for nearly 10 weeks. Prior validation tests showed that the perforated bag did not impact bean crop production. Struvite was tested at various rates ranging from 1 to 20 g of struvite per plant and compared to soluble mineral P fertilizer in the hydroponic nutrient solution. The pH of the hydroponic solution in the struvite tests was approximately 7. Results show that struvite at > 5 g/plant resulted in better initial plant growth than the dissolved mineral P fertilizer, as well as higher bean crop yield and considerably lower P losses to the hydroponic leachate (nearly 70% of the dissolved mineral P fertilizer was lost to leachate). The authors suggest that the higher initial growth may be related to the ammonia N content of the struvite (released as needed by the plants). The authors conclude that these tests show that struvite granules are a potentially effective P fertilizer for hydroponics.

In a previous study, also using struvite similarly for bean tests, nitrogen in the hydroponic nutrient solution was substituted by rhizobium inoculation. This led to a 50 – 60 % bean yield reduction although the combination of both struvite and rhizobium seemed to be compatible and promising for further research.

“Recovered phosphorus for a more resilient urban agriculture: Assessment of the fertilizer potential of struvite in hydroponics”, V. Arcas-Pilz et al., Science of the Total Environment 799 (2021) 149424 DOI.

“Assessing the environmental behavior of alternative fertigation methods in soilless systems: The case of Phaseolus vulgaris with struvite and

rhizobia inoculation”, V. Arcas-Pilz et al., Science of the Total Environment 770 (2021) 144744 DOI.

 

Lab tests of sewage sludge incineration ash (SSIA) in fertiliser production

In lab tests, 25% of phosphate rock was substituted by SSIA in superphosphate production, showing no difference in fertiliser effectiveness in maize pot trials and no impact on heavy metal levels in the plant. The sludge ash was from the Sülzle Kopf gasification process and had total P of 9.9%, compared to 11.8% P in the phosphate rock used (sedimentary, Israel). The P in this SSIA was identified as (for the crystalline part) mainly Ca3Mg3(PO4)2, whereas the authors suggest that P in SSIA is generally mainly whitlockite Ca3(PO4)2 or similar (based on Donatello et al. 2013). Superphosphate was produced by dissolving either 100% phosphate rock, or 75% rock + 25% SSIA, in 95% sulphuric acid. The superphosphate using 25% SSIA showed slightly higher cadmium and nickel levels compared to that from phosphate rock only, slightly lower chromium, significantly higher lead and very much higher (order of magnitude) copper and zinc. 10-week pot trials with maize, in a low-P soil, pH 5.2, tested the two superphosphates, struvite (Stuttgart process), the SSIA, the phosphate rock and a control (no P fertiliser). The pot trials showed the highest maize biomass production with struvite, high and the same between the two superphosphates, but significantly lower with rock phosphate and even lower with sewage sludge incineration ash (c. 25% of biomass produced with superphosphates or struvite). None of the heavy metals were significantly different with superphosphate using SSIA (or struvite) compared to superphosphate from rock. The authors hypothesise that significant inputs over the long term of SSIA replacing phosphate rock in fertiliser production could decrease the solid / soil solution partitioning of copper, nickel and lead.

“Producing Superphosphate with Sewage Sludge Ash: Assessment of Phosphorus Availability and Potential Toxic Element Contamination”, Y. You et al., Agronomy 2021, 11, 1506, DOI.

Review of fertiliser value of sewage sludge incineration ash (SSIA)

Based on over 200 references, the authors conclude that SSIA offers significant potential for P-recovery but is highly variable, showing inconsistent results when used directly as a fertiliser, and contains contaminants. Useful collated data is provided on SSIA particle size, surface area, phosphorus content, chemical form of phosphorus in SSIA and contents of other elements and of contaminants. Variations confirm that SSIA is specific to each sewage treatment works. Fourteen studies of agricultural land application of SSIA are listed. Several of these studies showed that plant biomass or P uptake was higher with SSIA than with no added phosphorus (control), but this was often with P loadings higher than agronomic requirements. SSIA generally shows very considerably lower fertiliser effectiveness than mineral P fertiliser. Cases are recorded of crop uptake of copper and zinc when SSIA was applied. The authors conclude that more research is needed into possible fertiliser value of SSIA, untreated and after chemical / heat treatments.

“Land application of sewage sludge incinerator ash for phosphorus recovery: A review”, P. Ma, C. Rosen, Chemosphere 274 (2021) 129609 DOI.

 

Pot trials of P-fertiliser from digestates

A precipitated phosphate salt from manure + energy crop digestate liquid fraction, and dried solid fraction (40°C, 120°C) were tested in 50-day pot trials with maize. Two different soils were tested: silty loam subsoil, nutrient poor, low biological activity, pH 7.3 and clay loam agricultural top soil, pH 7.4. The phosphate salt was recovered by acidification (sulphuric acid, to release phosphorus to soluble orthophosphate) then sodium hydroxide addition, and was a mixture of calcium and magnesium phosphates. In the top soil, the precipitated P salt showed fertiliser effectiveness (increased maize dry matter), slightly higher than with mineral P fertiliser (triple super phosphate TSP). In the biologically inactive subsoil, the P-salt alone was less effective than TSP, but P-salt plus dried digestate was in some cases as effective. The dried digestates alone showed lower fertiliser effectiveness than TSP in this short-duration pot trial.

“Efficiency of Recycled Biogas Digestates as Phosphorus Fertilizers for Maize”, I-M. Bach et al., Agriculture 2021, 11, 553, DOI.

 

Possibilities for P-recycling from baby nappies

The quantity potential (case of Australia), possible technologies and needed changes to disposable nappy design and management for phosphorus recycling are reviewed. For Australia, with a population of just over 25 million, the study estimates that total P in human urine and excreta is around 13 million tonnes P / year, of which c. 3 MtP/y goes to disposable baby nappies and is currently lost in solid waste disposal. Nearly 25 publications on nappy recycling are assessed, including composting, pyrolysis, energy recovery, recovery of fibres or polymers or use as a fibre additive in concrete. Of these, only the composting routes (and potentially pyrolysis biochar production) reuse the phosphorus and nutrients, plus one study of nutrient solution extraction (Nobel & Han 2020, see below). The authors note that nutrient recovery from disposable nappies requires redesign for sustainability of the nappy product and the use cycle, for example nappies with two separable layers, with the absorbing layer biodegradable, separate collection and processing logistics.

Nobel & Han (2020) tested at the lab scale extraction of nutrients from used disposable nappies by shredding, then using sodium hydroxide to dissolve cellulose fibres (c. 15% of unused diaper weight) and super absorbent polymers (c. 30%) and release nutrients to solution, then neutralisation using nitric acid, and finally sterilisation to remove possible pathogens. This study notes that around 65% of mass of used diapers is water. A concentration of 1 molar or higher sodium hydroxide showed to be necessary.

“Phosphorus circular economy of disposable baby nappy waste: Quantification, assessment of recycling technologies and plan for sustainability”, R. Chowdhury et al., Science of the Total Environment 799 (2021) 149339, DOI.

“Method for nutrient solution extraction from used diposed diapers.”, B. Nobel & S. Han, SJ. Energy Eng. 29 (3), 34–41, 2020, DOI, PDF.

 

Climate change and plant P uptake

Meta-analysis suggests drought events may decrease soil phosphatase activity (needed for plant P uptake from organic molecules), CO2 increase and N fertilisation may increase activity, with no significant effect noted for warming. Over 610 data measurements were analysed, in each case including sample sizes and standard deviations, and covering both acid and alkaline phosphatases (phosphomonoesterases), from 97 publications. 50 data pairs for nitrogen fertilisation showed that increased N led to increased phosphatase activity (to be expected, as phosphatase production consumes N) whereas increased P fertilisation decreased activity (24 pairs, also to be expected, as P-uptake from organic forms is less necessary). Also N fertilisation often reduces soil pH, so is likely to cause a shift from alkaline to acid phosphatases. Elevated CO2 led to a small increase in soil phosphatase activity (105 data pairs), whereas warming had no significant impact (51 pairs). Drought episodes, an expected consequence of climate change in many regions, clearly reduced soil phosphatase activity (56 data pairs), particularly of acid phosphatase in Mediterranean regions, and also temperature and subtropical forests. Water content of soil is known to be a very important factor favouring plant P-uptake. Drying may however increase enzymatic activity in wetlands and organic soils. Presence of invasive species led to increased phosphatase activity (49 data pairs). Overall, this meta-analysis confirms that climate change is likely to significantly modify plant and crop P-uptake, in particular because of changes in soil humidity (see also SCOPE Newsletter n°137).

“The effect of global change on soil phosphatase activity”, O. Margalef et al., Global Change Biology, 2021, DOI.

 

Plant phosphorus in diet causes health problems

Tests with rats and humans show that phytate, the main form of P in seeds (cereals, nuts, legumes …), is digestible (normal calcium diet), with high levels causing P-related health problems such as kidney crystals and bone loss. Phytate is often considered to be non-digestible by mono-gastric animals, because it binds to minerals such as Ca, Mg, Fe, Zn (see SCOPE Newsletter n°78). This means that high phytate diets can cause health problems by inhibiting uptake of these essential minerals. Dietary phytate can however also be beneficial because it inhibits hydrolysis (and so uptake) of lipids, proteins, sugars and starch. In this work, rats were fed for 12 weeks feed with 0% to 5% added phytate (i.e. 0 – 1.4 % added phosphorus. The standard AIN-93G rat diet used contains 0.5% phytate (and total 0.3 % phosphorus). Rats fed +5% phytate and standard diet level calcium showed decreased blood calcium levels and high blood phosphorus and magnesium and developed crystal nephropathies, kidney fibrosis and severe bone loss, both symptoms associated with excess diet P. However, increasing the diet calcium for the rats (+1% Ca) prevented these mineral unbalances and negative impacts. A 12-day pilot study was also carried out on six healthy women (23-34 years) with 4 days white rice (0.35% phytate), 4 days brown rice (1.07% phytate) and 4 days brown rice + bran (2.18% phytate). Blood P, Ca and Mg remained within normal levels for all three diets, but the higher phytate diet did result in slightly decreased blood phosphorus. The authors conclude that phytate is digestible by monogastric animals when the diet calcium/phytate ratio is low.

“High-phytate/low-calcium diet is a risk factor for crystal nephropathies, renal phosphate wasting, and bone loss”, O-H. Kim et al., eLife 2020; 9:e52709, DOI.

 

 

Erratum

 

Global peatlands phosphorus and carbon

In our eNews n°56, We summarised an article by D. Schillereff et al., under the eNews title “Will atmospheric P deposition significantly impact peat bog carbon storage?”. In our summary, we stated “Mid-latitude peatlands are estimated to hold 0.23 Gt of carbon (1.7% of global soil carbon)”. This should read “Mid-latitude peatlands are estimated to hold 0.23 Gt of phosphorus (1.7% of global soil phosphorus)”.

 

Stay informed

SCOPE newsletter: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/SCOPEnewsletter          eNews newsletter: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNewshome
If you do not already receive SCOPE and eNews (same emailing list), subscribe at www.phosphorusplatform.eu/subscribe
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/european-sustainable-phosphorus-platform/            Twitter: @phosphorusfacts         
Slideshare presentations: www.slideshare.net/NutrientPlatform

 

ESPP members

ESPP members logos 2 2021

 

Newsletter about nutrient stewardship - European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform (ESPP)

Please subscribe www.phosphorusplatform.eu/Subscribe 
Link to www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNews057
Download as PDF

ESPC4 and PERM5, Vienna, 20-22 June 2022

Other events
Nutrient Platforms members’ meeting: P-recovery implementation update
DPP Forum (German Phosphorus Platform)
Hamburg Wasser – EWA – VSA online workshop on P-recovery
Phos4You Final Conference
Call for papers
Call for abstracts

Policy
EU workshop on End-of-Waste criteria
EU “Fit for 55” package proposes Carbon Border Tax on nitrogen fertilisers
French public health study calls for action on cadmium exposure
Consultation on draft standards on wastewater treatment data and P-removal
ESPP input to EU consultation on urban wastewater treatment Directive
US Senate proposes agriculture carbon credit scheme

Eutrophication
Turkey’s Marmara coast hit by “sea snot”
UNESCO says Great Barrier Reef in danger

EU Fertilising Products Regulation
STRUBIAS criteria in publication process, translations proposed
Update on cadmium limits in Member States

P-recovery
P4 project obtains EU funding
Inventory of operating phosphorus recovery and /or recycling facilities

Research
N and P inputs cause declines in invertebrates
Sewerage piping leaks could cause 20% of wastewater P loads to the environment
Societal cost-benefit of P reductions to Lake Champlain, Vermont
US dietary phosphorus intake increasing

Stay informed

ESPP members

 

ESPC4 and PERM5, Vienna, 20-22 June 2022

The 4th European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference (ESPC4) will be the biggest phosphorus stakeholder meeting globally for four years (since ESPC3 Helsinki, which brought together nearly 300 participants from 30 countries, see SCOPE Newsletter n°127).

ESPC4, Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st June 2022, will be followed by PERM5, the 5th Phosphorus in Europe Research Meeting, Wednesday 22nd June 2022 (summary of PERM4, June 2021, online, coming soon here).

ESPC4 was Covid-cancelled from 2020, and so in 2022 Vienna will offer the first major opportunity “after” - hopefully - the pandemic, for Europe and the world’s phosphorus community to come together (industry, policy makers, scientists).

We know from past months that distance meetings can be effective whilst saving time and miles, and international travel may still be difficult in 2022, so ESPC4 - PERM5 will be both physical and accessible online.

For the 400 participants expected in Vienna, a strong accent will be on networking and meeting one-another, facilitated by time in the programme, space and rooms at the venue and use of an event app with a Chat function (integrating with the online Chat). This will enable direct personal contacts through discussion and questions and the possibility to make contact with and propose meetings with other participants in Vienna.

ESPC4 will particularly address:

  • The current major developments in EU policy on nutrients: Green Deal target of 50% reduced nutrient losses by 2030, revision of wastewater and sludge Directives, Circular Economy Action Plan, Critical Raw Materials, Horizon Europe and the ‘Soil Health and Food’ Mission, the EU Integrated Nutrient Management Action Plan;
  • Update on full-scale roll-out of phosphorus recovery as Germany’s and Switzerland’s P-recovery regulations move towards implementation;
  • Regional, city and national phosphorus sustainability initiatives
  • Climate change and phosphorus management: consequences of climate change on phosphorus losses and eutrophication, impacts of nutrients and eutrophication on greenhouse gas emissions

PERM5 will discuss EU funding perspectives and industry needs for nutrient management R&D, with the emphasis on discussion and networking (PERM5 will be also accessible online). PERM5 will be followed (tbc) by a get-to-know and social session for nutrient-related Marie Curie projects and other nutrient research and young scientist networks.

A new call for abstracts will be announced for ESPC4 in September and papers already accepted in 2020 will be reconsidered.

ESPC4 and PERM5 webpage: https://phosphorusplatform.eu/espc4

 

 

Other events

 

Nutrient Platforms members’ meeting: P-recovery implementation update

Tuesday 31st August, online. Webinar open to members of nutrient platforms only (ESPP, German Phosphorus Platform, Netherlands Nutrient Platform, Nutricycle Vlaanderen, Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance North America, plus BSAG, UKWIR) will give an update on nutrient project actions and nutrient platform projects under development, and will provide information on implementation of the German and Swiss phosphorus recovery regulations.

Tuesday 31st August, 16h-18h30 CEST (Paris- Brussels time) – registration information from the nutrient platforms.

 

DPP Forum (German Phosphorus Platform)

9th September Frankfurt-am-Main and online. Bringing recycled phosphates to the market. In German

Programme and registration here.

 

Hamburg Wasser – EWA – VSA online workshop on P-recovery

21st September 10h30-13h00, online broadcast from the Remondis P-recovery plant, Hamburg, Germany: first full-scale operational experience of P-recovery in Hamburg, update on P-recovery in Switzerland, etc. The event is organised by Hamburg Wasser (city-owned municipal water company), with EWA (European Water Association, a water profession association with members across much of Europe) and input from VSA (Swiss Association of Water Protection Professionals)

Registration here.

 

Phos4You Final Conference

22 – 23 September, Essen, Germany, and online, presentation of Phos4You (InterReg) project outcomes, presentations of trials of P-recovery technologies, regulatory developments, LCA aspects. With European Commission DG GROW and DG AGRI and InterReg Secretariat. Technologies presented will be: EuPhoRe, bioacidification & STRUVIA struvite, PULSE (Liège University), Parforce, Filtraflo (crab carapace P-adsorption), micro-algae.

Phos4You website for programme etc. Registration here.

 

 

Call for papers

Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems - Special Issue “Use of 15N tracers to study nitrogen flows in agro-ecosystems: transformation, losses and plant uptake”. This special issue welcomes review and research papers, including modelling studies and short communications, on 15N tracer studies on nitrogen flows in agro-ecosystems. Guest editors: Clemens Scheer and Tobias Rütting. Submissions close on 28 February 2022.

https://www.springer.com/journal/10705/updates/19175738

 

Call for abstracts

24-25 November, ManuResource Conference, the International Conference on Manure Management and Valorisaton, Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. The conference is offering (26th November) site visits to  including Eco-Energy (manure anaerobic digestion) in Oirschot and Ecoson (manure and food waste to biofuels, methanisation and organic phosphate fertilser pellets) in Son. Abstract submission deadline: 1st September 2021
https://www.vcm-mestverwerking.be/en/manuresource/23023/call-for-abstracts

 

 

Policy

 

EU workshop on End-of-Waste criteria

The European Commission (JRC) has announced a stakeholder workshop to discuss which materials streams should be on a priority list for definition of European End-of-Waste Criteria. ESPP submitted at the start of May 2021 a joint letter, signed by over 120 companies and organisations, requesting that certain material streams recovered from waste water be considered for this priority list. (This does not concern recovered materials used in fertilising products, for which the EU Fertilising Products Regulation 2019/1009 provides a process for defining End-of-Waste status). Eureau, AquaPublica, ESPP and other organisations are now mandating an expert to provide further information on these material streams to support this request. The material streams suggested by JRC for discussion at this workshop include “biological materials” and it is not today clear whether materials from wastewater may be considered under this title.

European Commission JRC stakeholder workshop “Scoping and developing further End-of-Waste (EoW) and By-Product (BP) criteria”, online, 14-15 September 2021. Participation of organisations selected by the European Commission only. To candidate to participate: contact before 30th July 2021.

Twitter #EoW4WWStreams

 

 

EU “Fit for 55” package proposes Carbon Border Tax on nitrogen fertilisers

European Commission proposes regulatory package to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by -55% to 2030, including actions on agriculture and land use, and a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) for nitrogen fertilisers. The Green Deal “Fit for 55” published (14th July 2021) is a detailed regulatory package, intending to “transform the economy” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including proposals on transports, including road and aviation fuel taxes and banning sales of greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting cars by 2035, energy efficiency and changes to the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). The package includes a proposal to avoid ‘carbon leakage’ by putting a carbon price on imports of certain goods (Cross Border Adjustment Mechanism CBAM), starting with cement, iron and steel, aluminium, electricity and (nitrogen) fertilisers. The proposed CBAM Regulation (Com(2021)564) proposes the border carbon tax on N, N+P, N+K and NPK mineral/chemical fertilisers, noting that the “difference in emission intensities of EU and non-EU producers is particularly high for fertilisers”. Mineral phosphorus fertilisers are not concerned if not containing nitrogen. Fertilizers Europe has expressed support in principle for the CBAM on fertilisers: Jacob Hansen, Director General, 11th March 2021Fertilizers Europe …  recognises that to raise EU’s ambition on climate while avoiding carbon leakage, the EU must put a carbon border measure in place to ensure an international level playing field”.

The proposed Regulation on Climate-Neutral Land Use, Forestry and Agriculture (COM(2021)504) proposes to implement binding targets for Member States for net carbon removal in land use and aims to make food and biomass production climate neutral by 2035, in particular citing livestock and fertiliser use. The proposal indicates inclusion of greenhouse emissions related to “nitrogen leaching and run-off” but does not specify how such nitrogen losses are calculated to relate to greenhouse emissions.

Raw materials and nutrients are otherwise absent from the “Fit for 55” package, which addresses principally energy. This is coherent in that nutrients are strongly addressed elsewhere under the Green Deal Farm-to-Fork and Biodiversity packages, see SCOPE Newsletter n°139.

NGOs are critical of the “Fit for 55” package, suggesting that it is insufficiently ambitious, criticising the absence of sector-specific emissions reduction targets, exclusion of heavy industry and agriculture from ETS and continuing subsidies to fossil fuels.

European Commission press release, 14th July 2021 IP_21_3541) “European Green Deal: Commission proposes transformation of EU economy and society to meet climate ambitions” https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_3541

Fertilizers Europe press release 11th March 2021
European Environment Bureau “EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ is unfit and unfair”, 14th July 2021.

 

French public health study calls for action on cadmium exposure

Wide media coverage points to “contamination of nearly the whole French population, including children, by heavy metals”, and says breakfast cereals are the main source of cadmium, because of phosphate fertilisers. The documents published by Public Health France are less directly accusatory, but do state that cadmium levels in the French population increased from 2006-2007 to 2014-2016 and are higher than in other European countries or North America. The official website states that breakfast cereals increase cadmium levels in children, with fish, shellfish and smoking being important other sources for adults. Nearly half the French population show cadmium levels higher than that recommended by the French national health and environment agency ANSES. The official study report (ESTEBAN) indicates that in 2019 this agency (ANSES) recommended to reduce population exposure to cadmium, in particular in mineral phosphate fertiliser and organic soil amendments such as sewage biosolids. The ESTEBAN report quotes INERIS 2017  “reduction of cadmium in fertilisers seems to meet economic rather than technical obstacles”.

Nouvelle République 5/7/21 (article published widely across France) here and Le Monde here.

SantéPubliqueFrance press release 1/7/2021 here.

ESTEBAN (French national biosurveillance) report “Impregnation of the French population by cadmium”, July 2021 here and press release 1/7/2021 here.

 

Consultation on draft standards on wastewater treatment data and P-removal

Proposed new EU (CEN) standards are published and open to comment, for wastewater treatment plants: chemical phosphorus precipitation and general data requirements. prEN 12255-13 covers “chemical treatment of wastewater by precipitation/flocculation for removal of phosphorus and suspended solids”. It defines terms such as “coagulant”, “tertiary treatment”, “precipitant”. The standard indicates that P-total discharge limits “typically range from 2 mg/l down to 0.25 mg/”. The standard provides guidance for design, chemical process options, selection of precipitation chemicals, storage – preparation and dosing of chemicals, mixing, control systems, reactor - sedimentation and filtration systems, and sludge production. prEN 12255-11 covers data necessary for planning, design, construction, compliance testing, etc. of wastewater treatment plants.

Both standards are now published as drafts, and comments can be input via national standards organisations.

As usual for CEN standards, the draft texts are not freely available, and prices vary depending on different national standards body website. Texts of both standards can be purchased for a total of 9.75€ from the Estonia standards organisation www.evs.ee

 

 

ESPP input to EU consultation on urban wastewater treatment Directive

ESPP underlines the need to better protect nutrient ‘Sensitive Areas’, to integrate reuse and recovery of nutrients, and to address contaminants in sewage at source. ESPP welcomes the recognition that eutrophication remains a major challenge to be addressed, including storm overflows, agglomerations < 2 000 p.e. and “IAS” (autonomous wastewater treatment, septic tanks), and underlines that eutrophication problems will be accentuated by climate change (see SCOPE Newsletter n°137). ESPP suggests that nutrient recovery objectives should be integrated into the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, in line with the Circular Economy Action Plan, and that this should include both “recovery” and “reuse” of both phosphorus and nitrogen, underlining that sewage sludge should be managed to ensure safety (risks from contaminants, antibiotic resistance) and that sludge should be used in such a sway that account is taken of crop nutrient requirements.

ESPP input to the public consultation on the revision of the Urban Waste water Treatment Directive here.

The EU public consultation on the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive is open until 21st July 2021 HERE.

 

US Senate proposes agriculture carbon credit scheme

The draft Growing Climate Solutions Bill would (if passed by the House of Representatives and then enacted) establish a Certification Scheme for farms mitigating greenhouse gas emissions or capturing carbon. The objective is to ensure a recognised and transparent certification scheme, through USDA (US Department of Agriculture), thus facilitating farmer access to possible private carbon credit markets. The bi-partisan Bill was adopted by a large majority (92-8) on 24th June 2021 in the US Senate and must now go to the House of Representatives.

US Senate Growing Climate Solutions Bill S.1251

For information, Australia’s ”Emissions Reduction Fund” (ERF) already includes vegetation management and agriculture

 

Eutrophication

 

Turkey’s Marmara coast hit by “sea snot”

Marine mucilage has covered the Marmora Sea, caused by nutrient inputs and accentuated by climate warming. The mucilage layer is up to 30m and is damaging tourism and fishing, killing fish and can harbour pathogens. “Sea snot”, or mucilage is a slimy, gelatinous material produced by marine algae in eutrophic conditions, and also affects the Aegean Sea off Greece. Mucilage caused major problems on Italy’s Adriatic Coast in the 1990’s, largely resolved when wastewater collection and nutrient removal was implemented. The mucilage event around Istanbul is thought to be the biggest ever recorded. By late June, Turkish sea cleaning teams operating at over 200 locations had already collected 6 000 tonnes of mucilage.

Mucilage kills fish, shellfish and sea stars, by starving the water of oxygen and by suffocating fish eggs which are usually close to the surface.

25 million people live around the Marmara Sea, including 15 million in the Istanbul area. Turkey’s Government has recognised that the problem is largely caused by untreated or inadequately treated sewage and has announced that all existing sewage works will be upgraded to advanced biological treatment (currently over half undergoes primary treatment only). The Government says that, after emergency inspections, over half of the 445 wastewater treatment plants discharging into the Marmara do not need upgrade but over 140 need revision, maintenance or complete rebuild. The Government’s emergency plan will also prevent ships from discharging wastewater into the Marmara Sea, create artificial wetlands and buffers, and support farmers who switch to modern irrigation systems and instigate zero waste policies. A fertiliser factory discharging into the Marmara has been temporarily closed. Scientists however note that the Danube and Dnieper rivers also carry large pollution and nutrient loads from upstream into the Marmara, and should be addressed.

“Ministry unveils action plan to tackle the sea snot problem in Marmara”, 7th June 2021

“Authorities take concrete steps to save mucilage-covered Marmara Sea”, 15th June 2021

“Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum attended the Mucilage Coordination Board Meeting”, 14th July 2021

 

UNESCO says Great Barrier Reef in danger

A UNESCO report to its World Heritage Committee suggests that the Barrier Reef should be put on the list of site “in danger” because of climate change, water quality and land use. The main factor leading to deterioration of the Reef and recent massive coral bleaching events is water temperature increase, because of climate change, but water quality and land use are also cited, because of nutrients (in particular, dissolved organic nitrogen) and sediments. Australia has strongly criticised the proposed UNESCO decision, fearing impacts on tourism, despite its own 2019 5-year report downgrading the Reef from poor to very poor. NGOs and scientists say that Australia is failing on climate change, with its consistent refusal to commit to zero emissions by 2050. UNESCO first debated “in danger” status for the Reef in 2017, leading Australia to engage a 2 billion € action plan. This has been effective in reducing nutrients, but UNESCO says action is too slow and that climate change is not addressed.

UNESCO report draft decision, World Heritage WHC/21/44.COM/7B.Add, 21st June 2021

“Unesco: Great Barrier Reef should be listed as 'in danger' “, BBC News 22nd June 2021.

 

EU Fertilising Products Regulation

 

STRUBIAS criteria in publication process, translations proposed

The EU has made public finalised EU Fertilising Products Regulation STRUBIAS criteria (struvites and precipitated phosphates, ash based products, pyrolysis and biochars). Translations are also underway (comment possible). This is the final phase before formal adoption of these criteria, which will enable them to be applicable when the new Fertilising Products Regulation enters into implementation in July 2022. The EU has also published translations of the precipitated phosphates and ash-based materials criteria, and comment is possible on these (only on the correspondence of the translation to the English text, not on the criteria themselves).

Finalised criteria texts in English and (draft) translations

Precipitated phosphate salts and derivates

Thermal oxidation materials and derivates

Pyrolysis and gasification materials

 

Update on cadmium limits in Member States

Three further Member States have recently obtained derogations allowing to maintain lower national cadmium limits in EU fertilisers than those currently fixed by the EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR) when it enters into implementation in July 2022.

These new derogations maintain lower limits already existing in these countries: Denmark (COM decision 2020/1178) = equivalent to 48 mgCd/kgP2O5, Hungary (COM decision 2020/1184) = 20 mgCd/kgP2O5 and Slovak Republic (COM decision 2020/1205) = 20 mgCd/kgP2O5. The FPR (art. 3.2) also maintains derogations for lower limits which had been previously been granted: Austria (COM decision 2006/D0349 = 75 mgCd/kgP2O5, but which will become irrelevant in July 2022 because higher than the FPR limit), Finland (COM decision 2006/D0348 = 50 mgCd/kgP2O5) and Sweden (COM decision 2012/D0719 = equivalent to 20 mgCd/kgP2O5). A derogation previously requested by the Czech Republic was never granted (2006/D0390 = 50 mgCd/kgP2O5),

The FPR fixes a limit of 60 mgCd/kgP2O5 for phosphate fertilisers (organic and inorganic), with the provision that before July 2026 the European Commission will prepare a report assessing the feasibility of reducing this limit, taking into account evidence on cadmium exposure and environmental accumulation, etc.

Member States can also request to maintain existing lower limits for EU fertilisers sold on their territory (implemented through the derogations cited above) or fix new lower limits for EU fertilisers sold on their territory “based on new scientific evidence relating to the protection of the environment or the working environment on grounds of a problem specific to that Member State arising after the adoption of this Regulation”. The FPR maintains “optional harmonisation”, meaning that Member States can fix higher or lower cadmium limits, or have no cadmium limits, for “national” fertilisers (these are not regulated by the FPR).

  

 

P-recovery

 

P4 project obtains EU funding

The EU (Horizon 2020) will provide nearly 12 M€ to the FlashPhos project, led by University of Stuttgart, to develop thermo-chemical production of P4 (white phosphorus) from sewage sludge. FlashPhos is based on different technologies of project partners will develop and unify to best standards. The process will be integrated into existing industrial infrastructure (cement plants). Dewatered sewage sludge, or other organic wastes containing phosphorus, are dried and ground, then flash gasified at high temperatures with CaO (lime). The objective is to produce P4 (elemental white phosphorus), a specific form of phosphorus of high value and which is itself an EU Critical Raw Material (see SCOPE Newsletter n°136), in the EU and for which Europe is dependent on a handful suppliers from outside Europe, and which is essential for e.g. electronics, food additives, catalysts and production of a wide range of strategic organic phosphorus chemicals (flame retardants, water treatment, lubricants etc). The FlashPhos process claims to also produce a cement material and a valorisable iron metal alloy (so recovering iron salts used in wastewater phosphorus removal). The FlashPhos project will construct and test a c. 2 tonnes/day dry matter input pilot plant. Partners include ESPP member Italmatch as well as cement industry, plant manufacturers and industrial planners and consultants.

FlashPhos presentation at ESPP’s PERM4 meeting, 2nd June 2021.

Project summary on EU CORDIS website.
University of Stuttgart press release 7th June 2021.

 

 

Inventory of operating phosphorus recovery and /or recycling facilities

Christian Kabbe (P-REX Environment) has produced an updated list of full-scale P -recovery / -recycling installations, worldwide, in operation today or under construction at or downstream of wastewater treatment facilities. The list indicates nearly 120 installations, specifying the technology supplier, the location, operating since, the recovered phosphate material/product and the annual tonnage of product output.

Table online on ESPP’s website (with permission).

Information on installations missing from this table, or corrections or updates are welcome: to

 

 

 

Research

 

N and P inputs cause declines in invertebrates

A meta-analysis of over 200 nutrient enrichment studies shows that combined N+P inputs result in lower invertebrate numbers, concluding that nutrients may contribute to global invertebrate decline. The authors assessed 1 679 cases from 207 nutrient addition studies (screened from 7 348 identified by literature search). 88% of cases were temperate (12% tropical), 75% were terrestrial and 25% aquatic (of which nearly 90% freshwater).

N (and N+P) addition significantly reduced invertebrate abundance in terrestrial habitats (P input did not), whereas N+P (and probably P) significantly reduced abundance in aquatic habitats. Impacts were stronger in tropical than in temperate habitats. Results were robust for insects, zooplankton, arachnids, collembola and nematodes.

Results for invertebrate biomass were somewhat different and P significantly increased invertebrate biomass in aquatic habitats.

Results for invertebrate diversity showed no identifiable impacts, possibly because of insufficient study data.

The authors conclude that N+P inputs (together) consistently and significantly reduce invertebrate abundance both in terrestrial and aquatic environments, and suggest that anthropogenic nutrient enrichment may be a driver of the documented global invertebrate decline.

“Nitrogen and phosphorus enrichment cause declines in invertebrate populations: a global meta-analysis”, M. Nessel et al., Biological Reviews 2021 Biol. Rev. (2021), https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/brv.12771

 

Sewerage piping leaks could cause 20% of wastewater P loads to the environment

A study in Germany suggests that sewerage exfiltration today may account for 10% and 17% of environmental N and P loads from municipal wastewaters, rising to 11% and 20% if sewer remediation work is not undertaken. The study is based on data from over 11 000 municipalities across Germany and uses a combination of modelling (MONERIS Modelling of Nutrient Emissions in River Systems), data on connected populations and estimated pollution loads, upscaling of results from ten leakage studies on 4 German cities, and expert opinion. The average national sewerage wastewater loss is estimated at 2% of inflow sewage. The results are for the whole German public sewerage pipe system (450 000 km of pipes) and also private pipes (e.g. from house to public sewer) which are estimated to total 1.1 million km. The authors note the increase of leakage with sewerage pipe age and suggest that 20% of Germany’s public sewers are in need of rehabilitation of sewerage networks, especially those over 40 years old.

“Harmonized assessment of nutrient pollution from urban systems including losses from sewer exfiltration: a case study in Germany”, H. H. Nguyen & M. Venohr, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 2021 DOI.

“Sewer leakage: first nationwide estimate of pollution leaking from urban systems, Germany”, European Commission ‘Science for Environment Policy’, issue 564, 6th July 2021, here.

See also Ascott et al. in SCOPE Newsletter n°119 – estimate that 1 200 tP/y leak from drinking water pipes into the environment in England + Wales.

 

Societal cost-benefit of P reductions to Lake Champlain, Vermont

A study estimates economic benefits of reducing lake phosphorus inputs, concluding that costs outweigh benefits over 35 years but benefits outweigh costs by 2100, but notes that some benefits are not accounted. The study considers the Missiquoi Bay within Lake Champlain on the Vermont – Quebec border and estimates benefits of improved water quality resulting from reduced P inputs, under different scenarios, including considering climate change impacts. Benefits estimated economically include property value (based on transaction values), tourism revenue and risk of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) caused by cyanobacteria algae. P load reduction corresponding to the current TDML limit fixed by the EPA (64% reduction) is modelled, but also reductions from 0% to 100%. If no action is taken (0% P load reduction) property sales are expected to decline by US$ 180 000 per year, tourism spending by $ 414 000 / year and ALS health impacts to increase annually by $ 90 000 / year. Cost of P-abatement is based on Vermont Agency of Administration (AoA) 2016-2019 data of 934 US$/kgP. Estimated benefit / cost ratio is around 0.4 (cost 2.5x higher than benefit) for the TDML P load reduction. The authors note that this is comparable to benefit / cost ratios estimated for other policies to reduce water pollution in the US and that, in this study, benefits are underestimated because they are calculated only for Vermont and not for the Quebec shore of the lake, do not include recreational fishing, non-ASL health benefits and non-use values of water quality, and are based on “revealed preference” values which are generally lower than “stated preference” approaches.

“Quantifying the social benefits and costs of reducing phosphorus pollution under climate change”, J. Gourevitch et al., Journal of Environmental Management 293 (2021) 112838 DOI.

 

US dietary phosphorus intake increasing

Analysis of US national nutrition survey data 1988-2016 shows increased total dietary P intake (to 1.4 gP/person/day adult average) but decreased P intake from food additives (11% of total dietary P).  The study uses NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) data, comparing 1988-1994 to 2015-2016. Dietary phosphorus intakes were estimated by comparing NHANES data on what people ate, to food data bases indicating phosphorus content of different foods. For “added” phosphorus (P in phosphorus food additives), levels in different food types were calculated based on numbers from food phosphate manufacturers (IFAC), taking the average of the numbers given by IFAC as minimum and maximum levels of phosphorus food additives in different foodstuffs (differences between these two numbers were small), then multiplying by the % of products in different food categories estimated to contain P additives according to the Innova Market Insights database. Average adult total dietary P intake increased from 1.3 to 1.4 gP/person/day whereas “added” P intake decreased from 0.18 to 0.16 gP/day. The five largest contributors to natural P intake were: cheese, pizza, chicken pieces, low-fat milk and eggs. Nearly 50% of dietary intake of “added” P was from cheese (phosphorus food additives are used in processed soft cheese), soft drinks, cakes – buns – biscuits. The apparent decrease in phosphorus food additive intake may be due to lower consumption of processed foods or demand for foods without additives, or may be due to inaccurate P values in food data bases.

“Trends in Total, Added, and Natural Phosphorus Intake in Adult Americans, NHANES 1988–1994 to NHANES 2015–2016”, K. and L. Fulgoni and Victor L. Fulgoni III, Nutrients 2021, 13, 2249 DOI.

The study was funded by the food phosphate additive manufacturers, IFAC (International Food Additives Council).

 

 

Stay informed

SCOPE newsletter: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/SCOPEnewsletter          eNews newsletter: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNewshome
If you do not already receive SCOPE and eNews (same emailing list), subscribe at www.phosphorusplatform.eu/subscribe
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/european-sustainable-phosphorus-platform/            Twitter: @phosphorusfacts         
Slideshare presentations: www.slideshare.net/NutrientPlatform

 

ESPP members

ESPP members logos 2 2021

 

NOTE: below is ESPP’s understanding to date and may not be fully accurate. Please verify with cited source documents.

European Commission proposes regulatory package to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by -55% to 2030, including actions on agriculture and land use, and a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) for nitrogen fertilisers. The Green Deal “Fit for 55” published (14th July 2021) is a detailed regulatory package, intending to “transform the economy”” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including proposals on transports, including road and aviation fuel taxes and banning sales of greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting cars by 2035, energy efficiency and changes to the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). The package includes a proposal to avoid ‘carbon leakage’ by putting a carbon price on imports of certain goods (Cross Border Adjustment Mechanism CBAM), starting with cement, iron and steel, aluminium, electricity and (nitrogen) fertilisers. The proposed CBAM Regulation (Com(2021)564) proposes the border carbon tax on N, N+P, N+K and NPK mineral/chemical fertilisers, noting that the “difference in emission intensities of EU and non-EU producers is particularly high for fertilisers”. Mineral phosphorus fertilisers are not concerned if not containing nitrogen. Fertilizers Europe has expressed support in principle for the CBAM on fertilisers: Jacob Hansen, Director General, 11th March 2021 “Fertilizers Europe …  recognises that to raise EU’s ambition on climate while avoiding carbon leakage, the EU must put a carbon border measure in place to ensure an international level playing field”.

The proposed Regulation on Climate-Neutral Land Use, Forestry and Agriculture (COM(2021)504) proposes to implement binding targets for Member States for net carbon removal in land use and aims to make food and biomass production climate neutral by 2035, in particular citing livestock and fertiliser use. The proposal indicates inclusion of greenhouse emissions related to “nitrogen leaching and run-off” but does not specify how such nitrogen losses are calculated to relate to greenhouse emissions.

Raw materials and nutrients are otherwise absent from the “Fit for 55” package, which addresses principally energy. This is coherent in that nutrients are strongly addressed elsewhere under the Green Deal Farm-to-Fork and Biodiversity packages, see SCOPE Newsletter n°139.

NGOs are critical of the “Fit for 55” package, suggesting that it is insufficiently ambitious, criticising the absence of sector-specific emissions reduction targets, exclusion of heavy industry and agriculture from ETS and continuing subsidies to fossil fuels.

European Commission press release, 14th July 2021 IP_21_3541) “European Green Deal: Commission proposes transformation of EU economy and society to meet climate ambitions” https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_3541

Fertilizers Europe press release 11th March 2021
European Environment Bureau “EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ is unfit and unfair”, 14th July 2021.

Wide media coverage points to “contamination of nearly the whole French population, including children, by heavy metals”, and says breakfast cereals are the main source of cadmium, because of phosphate fertilisers. The documents published by Public Health France are less directly accusatory, but do state that cadmium levels in the French population increased from 2006-2007 to 2014-2016 and are higher than in other European countries or North America. The official website states that breakfast cereals increase cadmium levels in children, with fish, shellfish and smoking being important other sources for adults. Nearly half the French population show cadmium levels higher than that recommended by the French national health and environment agency ANSES. The official study report (ESTEBAN) indicates that in 2019 this agency (ANSES) recommended to reduce population exposure to cadmium, in particular in mineral phosphate fertiliser and organic soil amendments such as sewage biosolids. The ESTEBAN report quotes INERIS 2017  “reduction of cadmium in fertilisers seems to meet economic rather than technical obstacles”.

Nouvelle République 5/7/21 (article published widely across France) here and Le Monde here.

SantéPubliqueFrance press release 1/7/2021 here.

ESTEBAN (French national biosurveillance) report “Impregnation of the French population by cadmium”, July 2021 here and press release 1/7/2021 here.

Proposed new EU (CEN) standards are published and open to comment, for wastewater treatment plants: chemical phosphorus precipitation and general data requirements. prEN 12255-13 covers “chemical treatment of wastewater by precipitation/flocculation for removal of phosphorus and suspended solids”. It defines terms such as “coagulant”, “tertiary treatment”, “precipitant”. The standard indicates that P-total discharge limits “typically range from 2 mg/l down to 0.25 mg/”. The standard provides guidance for design, chemical process options, selection of precipitation chemicals, storage – preparation and dosing of chemicals, mixing, control systems, reactor - sedimentation and filtration systems, and sludge production. prEN 12255-11 covers data necessary for planning, design, construction, compliance testing, etc. of wastewater treatment plants.

Both standards are now published as drafts, and comments can be input via national standards organisations.

As usual for CEN standards, the draft texts are not freely available, and prices vary depending on different national standards body website. Texts of both standards can be purchased for a total of 9.75€ from the Estonia standards organisation www.evs.ee

The European Commission (JRC) has announced a stakeholder workshop to discuss which materials streams should be on a priority list for definition of European End-of-Waste Criteria. ESPP submitted at the start of May 2021 a joint letter, signed by over 120 companies and organisations, requesting that certain material streams recovered from waste water be considered for this priority list. (This does not concern recovered materials used in fertilising products, for which the EU Fertilising Products Regulation 2019/1009 provides a process for defining End-of-Waste status). Eureau, AquaPublica, ESPP and other organisations are now mandating an expert to provide further information on these material streams to support this request. The material streams suggested by JRC for discussion at this workshop include “biological materials” and it is not today clear whether materials from wastewater may be considered under this title.

European Commission JRC stakeholder workshop “Scoping and developing further End-of-Waste (EoW) and By-Product (BP) criteria”, online, 14-15 September 2021. Participation of organisations selected by the European Commission only. To candidate to participate: contact  before 30th July 2021.

Twitter: #EoW4WWStreams

Newsletter about nutrient stewardship - European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform (ESPP)

Please subscribe www.phosphorusplatform.eu/Subscribe 
Link to www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNews056
Download as PDF

Events
Future of Phosphorus Removal in Wastewater 2021
How to register fertilisers in different countries
PERM presentations and videos now online

ESPP new member: OCP

EU Fertilising Products Regulation
New proposals for by-products
Slow progress Animal By-Products, progress on other points
Call for data on pathogens / safety of recovered ammonia / sulphur
EU tender for study on fertiliser and mulch polymer biodegradability

Policy
European Commission takes Member States to court over sewage treatment
SYSTEMIC policy proposals to open markets for recycled nitrogen

Legacy Phosphorus
Frontiers in Earth Science special on ‘Legacy Phosphorus’
Soil P above agronomic recommendations does not increase yield
45 years of P fertilisation does not increase total soil P
Focusing only on decreasing soil P will take 26-65 years to reach environmental P targets
Initial soil P level defines maize productivity
Mineral fertiliser offers better P-balance than phosphate rock
Mineral fertiliser offers better crop yield than phosphate rock

IFA Smart&Green

Research and science
Will atmospheric P deposition significantly impact peat bog carbon storage?
Field trials of animal bone char as fertiliser
Pyrolysis reduces availability of phosphorus in poultry manure
Struvite effective fertiliser with lower P-loss risk
Global Phosphorus Institute launched

Stay informed

ESPP members

 

 

Events

Future of Phosphorus Removal in Wastewater 2021

7th July 2021, 10h30 - 16h30 CEST. Online conference will look at current status and future developments in phosphorus removal from wastewater, P-stewardship and P-recovery. Speakers include the UK Environment Agency, Isle Utilities, I-PHYC, The Rivers Trust, several UK water companies, ESPP.

https://event.wwtonline.co.uk/phosphorus/

How to register fertilisers in different countries

29th June 2021 13h-15h CEST –  free webinar organised by Fertiliser Consultants Network (FCN). Key points of the new EU Fertilising Products Regulation. How to manage fertiliser registration in the transitional period 2021-2024. Specific country/regional registration: France, Greece, Romania, North Africa, India,

Programme and registration https://www.legera.eu

 


PERM presentations and videos now online

PERM thumb enews 56Speaker slides and the ‘Chat’ from the 4th Phosphorus in Europe Research Meeting (PERM) are now online here and the video recordings of the event are available on YouTube here.

Over 370 participants took part in the 4th Phosphorus in Europe Research Meeting (PERM) 2nd June 2021 online, organised by ESPP, Biorefine and ETA. The meeting provided a showcase to policy makers and companies of R&D underway into nutrients in Europe, enabled exchange of experience between R&D projects.

PERM4 is accompanied by a full update of ESPP’s inventory of nutrient-related R&D projects now online here www.phosphorusplatform.eu/R&D  

PERM4 web page: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/PERM4

ESPP new member: OCP

OCP logo thumb enews 56OCP Group, a leading, global producer of phosphate and fertiliser, was founded in 1920 to manage Morocco’s phosphate reserves, and is today focussed on sustainable agriculture. OCP’s purpose and mission is to “maximize the positive impact of phosphorus”. The company’s Phosphate Stewardship Policy underlines its strong commitment to sustainably managing Morocco’s phosphate resource and is aligned with the UN’s 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically SDG 12: “Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”. Sustainable phosphate management is applied across OCP’s operations and sites; through product innovation and in R&D on re-working and recycling of phosphate resources; through its work with farmers around the world and the application of customised fertilisers; and in the development of technologies at its Mohammed VI Polytechnic University. OCP is engaged in efforts to study and develop means to effectively recycle phosphorus after its initial use to reduce the amount of mined phosphate required to produce the same quantity of food. In Africa, OCP has worked with more than one million farmers to educate on the importance of sustainable fertiliser application to maximise yields while preserving the integrity of the soil. OCP Group has developed more than forty customised fertiliser formulas for maximum efficiency and sustainable application, and to explore new technologies and products such as biostimulants and slow release fertilisers, among others, with the objective of an optimal consumption of the phosphate resource. OCP has been a founding member of the North America Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance and has now joined ESPP.

https://www.ocpgroup.ma/fr

 

 

 

EU Fertilising Products Regulation

 

New proposals for by-products

The European Commission has published its third report towards criteria for using “By-Products” as Component Materials for EU fertilising products (CMC11, additives and CMC-WW) for comment by 16th August 2021, under the new EU Fertilising Products Regulation 2019/1009). The 180-page document now proposes detailed criteria for which families of by-product would be eligible, with proposed quality/purity criteria, contaminant limits, process input material exclusions, etc. This was discussed at the EU Fertilisers Expert Group 24-25 June, at which ESPP was represented.

The following summarises ESPP’s understanding of the JRC proposal.

ESPP welcomes positively that phosphogypsum and other mineral processing by-products are included, and that a new route is opened to include nitrogen salts recovered from biogas or manure or animal housing gas treatment. However, this will probably only cover recovery from sanitised manure, unless data can be produced to show the safety (absence of pathogens) in such materials (see below).

The new proposal is significantly narrower than was suggested in March this year (CMC-WW initial proposal, see ESPP eNews n°53). ESPP’s request to widen to “derivates” (see ESPP eNews n°54) has not been taken up, that is the eligible by-products can only be included directly, as such, in an EU fertilising product, that is with no further chemical processing. They cannot be used as a precursor to produce other materials (note that by-products can be used as precursors in CMC1, but not if they have “waste” status).

The new JRC proposal is somewhat complex, with four different routes:

Routes (1) and (2) are subject to the requirements that (a) the material must be a “by-product” as defined under the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC, (b) Animal By-Products, polymers, compost and digestate are excluded, and (c) the material must be REACH registered (with conditions). For routes (1) and (2) a specific list of contaminant limits is defined.

(1) By-products from seven specified industrial processes: methionine, mineral ore processing (this category includes by-product gypsums and phosphogypsums), Solvay process, acetylene production, ferrous slags, specific metal treatments, humic/fulvic acids from drinking water treatment;

(2) (any) by-product used as a “technical additive” at <5% total in the final EU fertilising product.

Routes (3) and (4) are “CMC-WW High Purity Materials”, which was originally proposed in March this year (see ESPP eNews n°54). This proposal has been significantly narrowed and now covers ONLY mineral salts of ammonia, sulphur (inc. elemental sulphur), calcium carbonate or calcium oxide, subject to 95% purity and organic carbon < 0.5%. These mineral salts must also respect a detailed and extensive limits of contaminant limits, and must be REACH registered (with conditions). They can result from:

(3) any “production” process, to which inputs can be any material (chemicals, biomass …), but NOT waste and NOT Animal By-Products

(4) gas purification from (to simplify): hygienised manure, non-hazardous wastes or any other material except Animal By-Products. The list currently includes livestock housing offgas and gas from on-farm, storage of non-hygienised manure, but these are liable to be deleted]

European Commission JRC “Technical proposals for by-products and high purity materials as component materials for EU Fertilising Products. Interim report”, 14 June 2021 https://circabc.europa.eu/ui/group/36ec94c7-575b-44dc-a6e9-4ace02907f2f/library/785d1835-07b3-4b3c-a46a-e269a33c74c7/details

Comments are open to 16th August but can only be submitted via members of the EU Fertilisers Expert Group. Please therefore send all comments to ESPP before 16th July, in order to enable them to be taken into account.

 

 

Slow progress Animal By-Products, progress on other points

At the EU Fertilisers Expert Group, 24-25 June, of which ESPP is a member:

The European Commission DG SANTE summarised slow progress on criteria for using Animal By-Products (ABPs) in EU fertilising products (currently an ‘empty box’ in CMC10 in the Fertilising Products Regulation 2019/1009 = FPR). Work has not yet started on End-Points for ABPs under the FPR, but that the EFSA opinion is expected on some materials in September 2021 (EFSA mandate 2020-0088, see ESPP eNews n°50). It thus seems inevitable that the End-Point criteria will not be adopted by the date of entry into application of the FPR in July 2022. This is the regrettable consequence of the fact that the mandate to EFSA was only transmitted by DG SANTE to EFSA in May 2020, nearly a year after publication of the FPR and more than four years after publication of the proposed regulation which already included the CMC10 ‘empty box’.

The Commission presented development of  the ‘FAQ’ which provides guidance on the FPR. New adjustments clarify on additives, contaminants in CMC materials, waste plant materials (CMC2), definitions of ‘sludge’, blue green algae.

It is confirmed that plant materials with waste status (e.g. garden waste) can be used as input to CMC2 (subject to the processing limits specified) and so achieve End-of-Waste status when integrated into an EU-label fertilising product.

Pyrolysis products and biochars from manure and Animal By-Products: DG SANTE indicated that if companies wish these to be included in the FPR, then they should submit a dossier to EFSA requesting an ABP End-Point. At present, there is no Commission mandate to EFSA to develop an ABP End-Point for pyrolysis, gasification and biochar materials. Until such an ABP End-Point is defined and adopted, biochars from manure or animal by-products will be excluded from EU fertilisers. Companies with data showing pathogen safety of biochars from manure or animal by-products are invited to contact ESPP to develop together a dossier for EFSA.

STRUBIAS criteria moving towards adoption. The European Commission confirmed that the EU Fertilising Products Regulation criteria for precipitated phosphate salts, ash-derived products and biochars/pyrolysis materials (STRUBIAS) are progressing towards Commission adoption, which will be followed by the standard three month ‘objection’ period, before publication, so should be published significantly before entre into application of the Regulation in July 2022.

ESPP letter to the European Commission on “Animal By Product End Points for EU Fertilising Products Regulation STRUBIAS materials”, 16th April 2021 www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory

 

STRUBIAS criteria, as published for the public consultation February 2021

https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12136-Pyrolysis-and-gasification-materials-in-EU-fertilising-products

https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12162-Thermal-oxidation-materials-and-derivates-in-EU-fertilising-products

https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12163-Precipitated-phosphate-salts-and-derivates-in-EU-fertilising-products

 

Call for data on pathogens / safety of recovered ammonia / sulphur

The principle of inclusion of ammonia or sulphur materials recovered from gas stripping in EU-fertilisers seems now accepted (CMC-WW) but those from manure may be excluded, unless data is available on pathogen levels and safety. Nitrogen and sulphur materials recovered from gas cleaning in anaerobic digesters, sewage works, waste incinerators or other installations look likely to be included in the new CMC-WW of the EU Fertilising Product Regulation (see above). However, recovery from (non-sanitised) manure, manure digestion, livestock stables or other animal by-products will likely be excluded unless data is provided to show absence of pathogens and hygiene safety. It seems probable that the transfer via the gas phase, then acid stripping and concentration in mineral solutions, prevents or eliminates pathogens, but to date very little data has been provided to the Commission. Data will also support an ongoing ESPP request to exonerate such recovered materials from the Animal Feed regulation clause which currently prevents placing them on the market as commodity chemicals. Possibly also, a request to EFSA should be prepared to develop and Animal By-Product End-Point for such recovery processes.

If you have such data, or are willing to cooperate in developing such data (analysis of recovered nitrogen or sulphur materials), please contact ESPP.

 

EU tender for study on fertiliser and mulch polymer biodegradability

The European Commission has opened to 31st August a tender to assess biodegradability criteria for polymers used in fertilisers (coating agents, water retention, wettability) or in mulch films. Value: up to 300 000 €.

Submission deadline 31st August 2021. TED (EU tender website) Services 311603-2021 link.

Policy

 

European Commission takes Member States to court over sewage treatment

Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary and Spain face European Court of Justice action over inadequate collection and treatment of municipal wastewater.

The European Commission has referred France to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for failure to adequately treat sewage of more than 100 agglomerations (non-compliance with the 1991 Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive 91/271/EEC, which should have been fully implemented by 2005). Fifteen of these French agglomerations also fail to meet additional treatment requirements in eutrophication Sensitive Areas (phosphorus removal).

The Commission is also referring Hungary to the ECJ because 22 agglomerations are not collecting all residents’ sewage, relying instead partly on individual treatment systems (septic tanks), which are considered to not provide adequate treatment.

The Commission has issued a Reasoned Opinion to Belgium for non-compliance of 11 agglomerations: this gives the Member State two months to reply and take necessary measures, or face referral to the (ECJ).

The Commission has issued a Reasoned Opinion to Spain concerning over 300 agglomerations which do not treat sewage adequately, and a further 30 agglomerations where sewage is not collected and treated centrally, instead relying on individual treatment systems.

European Commission “June infringements package: key decisions”, Brussels, 9 June 2021 https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/inf_21_2743

“Urban Waste Water: Commission decides to refer FRANCE to the Court of Justice over waste water treatment”, 9 June 2021 https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_1546

 

SYSTEMIC policy proposals to open markets for recycled nitrogen

The EU-funded project SYSTEMIC has presented for discussion proposals for EU policies to enable nutrient recovery to economic, in particular by bringing recycled nitrogen fertilisers into the EU Emissions Trading System. SYSTEMIC proposes to open carbon credits for biogas plant operators not only for bio-methane but also, if nitrogen is recovered and recycled, for avoided carbon emissions for production of equivalent mineral nitrogen fertilisers. It is proposed also to open carbon credits for farmers using recycled N fertilisers and for fertiliser companies who include recycled N into their products. These proposals are based on LCA data which suggests a benefit of 3 tCO2-eq per tonne N comparing recycled N fertilisers1 (assumed zero CO2 emissions, as using energy from waste biogas) to mineral fertilisers1. As proposed by SYSTEMIC, however, such carbon credits could penalise farmers who use manure on-farm and benefit large-scale livestock production, in that SYSTEMIC combines the carbon credit proposal with support for the JRC ‘RENURE’ concept which is considered by some as an attempt to facilitate intensive livestock production (see ESPP eNews n°47). It should be ensured that small and extensive farms can be equally rewarded for appropriate manure management. The carbon credit base is not applicable to recycled phosphorus, but could perhaps be transposed into a Nutrient Emissions Trading System with phosphorus credits.

1: EU average CO2-eq. per tonne N, from Hoxha & Christersen, IFS Proceedings 805, 2018

SYSTEMIC is an EU Horizon 2020 project and an ESPP member. SYSTEMIC webinar ““Enabling the Circular Economy: How to encourage a viable agricultural market for nutrients recovered from biowaste”, 13 June 2021. Watch here.

 

Legacy Phosphorus

 

Frontiers in Earth Science special on ‘Legacy Phosphorus’

This journal issue includes 11 papers addressing phosphorus use in fertilisers and in soils. Six of these which include data relevant to discussions of ‘Legacy Phosphorus’ are summarised below. The other papers concern modelling, biostimulant bacteria,  use of paper mill biosolids or sewage sludge. The editorial of this journal (Gatiboni et al.) suggests that the two Zhang et al. studies show that soil “Legacy Phosphorus” can be reduced without deteriorating crop productivity, whereas this is only demonstrated in a situation where initial soil P is higher than recommended, and that cropping with fertilisation can increase legacy P, whereas this is only shown in the scenario of P-fertilising grassland but not harvesting the grass (this could occur for example in grass buffer strips receiving P from runoff/erosion). The editorial also suggests that de Souza Nunes et al. shows that fertiliser application tends to accumulate legacy P: this is also misleading in that this study started with initially “very low” soil P where increasing the soil P was necessary for productive agriculture.

The editorial does not mention several conclusions which can be suggested from the six papers summarised above:

  • If soil P is above agronomic recommended levels, application of P fertiliser will probably not increase yield, but if soil P is low, then P-fertiliser is needed or significantly lower crop yields will result;
  • Soluble mineral P-fertiliser gives better fertiliser results, and leads to less accumulation of P in soil, than (reactive) rock phosphate application;
  • Soil P levels low enough to ensure environmental objectives may be lower than agronomic optimal, and so result in losses of crop productivity.

In correspondence with the editors, it was noted that this discussion contributes to debate, and underlines the conundrum of sustainable production: how to balance maximising yield against protecting the environment. Lower phosphate inputs and reduction of soil P levels, possibly below agronomic optimum levels, may be necessary to achieve environmental objectives, but will reduce productivity, maybe considerably (see eg. McDowell et al. below), with impacts for both food production and farmers’ incomes.

“Legacy Phosphorus in Agriculture: Role of Past Management and Perspectives for the Future”, 143 pagers in total, ed. L. Gatiboni et al., Frontiers in Environmental Science, January 2021, Legacy Phosphorus in Agriculture https://www.frontiersin.org/research-topics/10116/legacy-phosphorus-in-agriculture-role-of-past-management-and-perspectives-for-the-future#articles

 

Soil P above agronomic recommendations does not increase yield

Zhang et al. report data from 11 years’ field trials comparing P-fertiliser application to zero-P application in Ontario, Canada (Lake Erie catchment). Within the field, randomised plots of 0.1 ha each were given P fertiliser (50 kgP/ha once every two years), plus N+K, or only N+K, in soy /maize rotations, with fertilisers only in the maize years. Surprisingly given the random plot allocation, the soil Olsen P was initially considerably higher in the plots not receiving fertiliser (c. 60 mg/kg Olsen P in the top 15 cm of soil, versus c. 40 in the P-fertilised plots). 30 mg/kg is the agronomic recommended Olsen P level for maize and soybean. The soil Olsen P was nearly the same in the P-fertilised and unfertilised plots after 11 years, at the end of the trials, because it remained approximately constant in the  P-fertilised plots but fell in the unfertilised plots. Crop productivity and crop P-offtake were similar in P-fertilised and unfertilised plots. The authors calculate that in the unfertilised plots net P-removal in crops was around 18 kgP/ha/year, so that in the P-fertilised net P-balance would be around +7 kgP/ha/y. Despite this, soil Olsen P did not measurably increase in these plots over the 11 years.

This study shows that soil Olsen P levels higher than agronomic recommendations do not lead to increased crop productivity. While the study is to continue, it is too early to inform as to whether or not crop productivity will be lost if soil P levels are “drawn down” below agronomic recommended levels.

“An 11-Year Agronomic, Economic, and Phosphorus Loss Potential Evaluation of Legacy Phosphorus Utilization in a Clay Loam Soil of the

Lake Erie Basin”, T. Zhang et al., Front. Earth Sci. 8:115 https://dx.doi.org/10.3389/feart.2020.00115

 

45 years of P fertilisation does not increase total soil P

Zhang et al. assess data from long-term field trials, Ontario, Canada, comparing different soil P fractions after 45 years of NPK phosphorus fertilisation to no fertilisation (no P, no N, no K), under three different tile-drained cropping systems: harvested maize, harvested oats-alfalfa rotation or permanent (i.e. not annually ploughed), unharvested grass, comparing also to non-cropped, non drained woodland. The fertilised fields received NPK fertiliser with 29 kgP/ha/year. A previous study suggested that c. 1.5 kgP/ha/y is lost in tile drains. The fertiliser application, after 45 years, resulted in no significant increase in total soil P in the two harvested crops (compared to the woodland soil) but an increase in the fertilised, non-harvested grassland (this is not representative of real farm operation where fertilised grass is harvested and removed, resulting in P-offtake). All the cropped fields without fertilisation, including to a lesser extent the grassland, showed significantly lower total soil P after 45 years. Changes in the different solubility fractions of organic and inorganic fractions of P in the soils are assessed, showing that the rate of mineralisation of organic P is increased with cropping + drainage, with or without NPK fertilisation.

“Legacy Phosphorus After 45 Years With Consistent Cropping Systems and Fertilization Compared to Native Soils”, T. Zhang et al., Soils. Front. Earth Sci. 8:183 https://dx.doi.org/10.3389/feart.2020.00183

 

Focusing only on decreasing soil P will take 26-65 years to reach environmental P targets

McDowell et al. analysed c. 4.5 million data points for Olsen P from two soil sample databases (Eurofins + Hills Labs, ARL) from commercial farms in New Zealand 2001-2015. Nearly half of these were for dairy, a further third for sheep and beef, <25% cropland and some horticulture. Nearly two thirds of samples showed Olsen P higher than agronomic recommendations. Modelling suggested that not applying P fertilisers would result in a fall in Olsen P to agronomic recommended levels in less than one year. This would not however correspond to environmental objectives, and reducing P-losses in drainage and runoff water to 0.02 mgP/l would require soil P levels significantly lower than agronomic recommendations. It would take 26-55 years for soils to reach environmental targets and the cessation of fertiliser inputs would likely result in large losses in agricultural productivity (these losses are not estimated).

“The Ability to Reduce Soil Legacy Phosphorus at a Country Scale”, R. McDowell et al., Front. Environ. Sci. 8:6 https://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fenvs.2020.00006

 

Initial soil P level defines maize productivity

Messiga et al. report results of a total of eleven 1-year silage maize field trials at 3 sites in 2018 and 8 in 2019 in BC, Canada, each with six treatments x 4 replicates on 45 m2 plots: five treatments with a total of 35 kg available-P/ha (of which 0 – 20 from TSP [triple super phosphate] and the remainder from liquid dairy manure) and one control (zero P). 35% of manure P was estimated to be “available”. The TSP fertiliser was band applied immediately after seeding the maize whereas the manure was applied at the 6-leaf stage. Additional N was applied as ammonium nitrate at the 6-leaf stage to meet the local recommendation of 150 kg N/ha. Generally, dry matter yield (DMY) at harvest was not higher in the plots with added P (be it as starter fertiliser or as manure at the 6-leaf stage) compared to the zero-P plots (fig. 4). At four sites, DMY did increase with P, showing optimum with low starter fertiliser and most P input from manure. Maize initial growth was improved by the starter fertiliser application, but this did not carry through to harvest. DMY at harvest did however vary strongly with initial soil phosphorus index, from 15 t/ha DMY in sites with low initial soil P (Mehlich-3 60 mgP/kg) to nearly the double (27 t/ha DMY) at sites with high initial soil P (Mehlich-3 200 mgP/kg). The authors note that the soil PSI (Phosphorus Saturation Index, an agro-environmental indicator), a proxy for DPS (Degree of P Saturation), is correlated to DMY, so may be a good indicator for adjusting P application. Overall, the trial results seem to suggest that initial soil P (that is, legacy P) generally influences maize productivity much more than P application in the year.

“Combined Starter Phosphorus and Manure Applications on Silage Corn Yield and Phosphorus Uptake in Southern BC”, A. Messiga et al., Front. Earth Sci. 8:88, https://dx.doi.org/10.3389/feart.2020.00088

 

Mineral fertiliser offers better P-balance than phosphate rock

Soltangheisi et al. report results of nine years of field trials (25 m2 plots) in South Brazil, no-till cultivating each year maize and a winter cover crop. 3x6 treatments were trialled: no-P, single super phosphate mineral fertiliser (SSP, 46-59 kgP/ha) or Algerian rock phosphate (148-190 kgP/ha), but in all cases with no-P for the last two years x 5 different winter cover crops or no cover crop (fallow). The soil at the start of the nine years was considered to have low P in the top 0 – 10 cm and very low P at 10 – 20 cm depth, despite commercial no-till cultivation for the years prior to the trials. P-fractions in soil were analysed at 0-5, 5-10 and 10-15 cm depth. Cover crops showed to bring P up from the soil, accumulating organic P on the soil surface. Considerably higher P-efficiency (total over the nine years, as P in harvested grain / P inputs) was shown with SSP  (39 – 55%) compared to rock phosphate (15 – 27%). With SSP, the P-efficiency with some cover crops was higher than fallow (48%), but was similar or lower with others. Total maize grain yield was around one third higher when P fertiliser was applied than with no-P, but was similar between SSP and rock phosphate (as tested, that is with 3 – 4 x more total P input with rock phosphate) and for the different cover crops or fallow.

“Cover Cropping May Alter Legacy Phosphorus Dynamics Under Long-Term Fertilizer Addition”, A. Soltangheisi et al., Front. Environ. Sci. 8:13 https://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fenvs.2020.00013 and “Do cover crops change the lability of phosphorus in a clayey subtropical soil under different phosphate fertilizers?”, A. Teles et al., Soil Use and Management, March 2017, 33, 34–44 https://dx.doi.org/0.1111/sum.12327

 

Mineral fertiliser offers better crop yield than phosphate rock

De Souza Nunes et al. report results of seventeen years of field trials in Brazil, 32 m2 plots, with 8 treatments: conventional or no-till x broadcast or furrow fertiliser application x TSP (triple super phosphate) or reactive rock phosphate (both at 35 kgP/ha/y). This reactive rock phosphate had high carbonate content, and so high P availability (44% citric acid solubility of P). Soybean and corn were cultivated. The soil initially had very low P availability and c. 1 mgP-total/kg. Results showed that broadcast fertiliser application resulted in a higher grain yield than furrow fertiliser placement. Under no-till, TSP resulted in grain yield c. 10% higher than with reactive rock phosphate, irrespective of spreading method. Under conventional tillage, TSP gave marginally higher (1-2%) yield than reactive rock phosphate for comparable spreading method. Reactive phosphate rock generally, but not consistently, led to higher accumulation of phosphorus in soil, especially calcium-associated phosphorus and particularly when broadcast.

“Distribution of Soil Phosphorus Fractions as a Function of Long-Term Soil Tillage and Phosphate Fertilization Management”, R. de Souza Front. Earth Sci. 8:350 https://dx.doi.org/10.3389/feart.2020.00350

 

 

IFA Smart&Green

This online event showcased 26 crop nutrition start-ups and discussed innovation from technology to market for new fertiliser approaches: biostimulants, controlled release, organic fertilisers, nutrient recycling and data solutions. This was IFA’s (International Fertilizer Association) first innovation conference and attracted over 400 registrants (220 online participants for the recycling session).

Chris Thornton, ESPP presented an overview of EU policies driving nutrient recycling and of different routes, from agricultural valorisation of sewage biosolids or processed digestate, through use of wastewater nutrients to feed biomass, to technical recovery of phosphate chemicals from ashes and other waste streams (ESPP slideshare).

Nutrient recycling

Yariv Cohen, EasyMining (RagnSells), presented the Ash2Phos process for recovery of high purity PCP (precipitated calcium phosphate) from sewage sludge incineration ash. Two full scale sites are under permitting: Helsingborg, Sweden and Gelsenwasser, Germany (both 30 000 t-ash/year, that is each around 3.5 million population wastewater), see ESPP eNews n°55. EasyMining’s objective is to be processing 300 000 t-ash/year by 2030.

Joseph Dahan, SGTech, presented their three-stage anaerobic/aerobic digestion system for manures, in which the third biological stage transfers over 60% of the phosphorus into the solid fraction (in particular as polyphosphate). Overall, methane production is increased (+25% compared to standard AD is claimed) and 80% nitrogen removal is achieved (released as N2 not as ammonia because of neutral pH operation). A pilot plant is in operation since 2018 (c. 15 000 t/y of manure from 100 cattle) and several further projects are currently in planning, both using containerised installations for smaller farms (< 200 cattle) and a possible project to treat pig manure.

Thomas Mannheim, Ductor, presented the company’s technology for anaerobic digestion of nitrogen-rich substrates like poultry or fish waste, which uses specifically selected bacteria to convert c. 60% of nitrogen to ammonia in a separate digester, upstream of the main anaerobic digester. All nutrients are converted to fertilisers: ammonia is stripped and recovered as a liquid nitrogen fertiliser, and the digestate from biomethane production is used for the production of organic NPK fertilizers. A first full scale plant (poultry litter) is operating at Juanita, Mexico, since January 2020 (0.25 MW electrical capacity) and a second one starts in June 2021 in Germany (0.5 MW). Further projects are under planning in Poland, the USA and Norway (up to 4 MW). The technology is modular, scalable, can be added to existing biogas plants or in new plants.

Organic fertilisers

Chiara Manoli, ILSA and ECOFI, summarised innovation and R&D in processed organic fertilisers. The EU market is at present around 3 million €/year and growing c. 4%/year. Organic fertilisers offer agronomic benefits including nutrient release rates adapted to plant needs, higher phosphorus uptake, and interactions between nutrients and humic substances which protect nutrients in soil from losses and stimulate soil microbial activity (see SOFIE conference summary in ESPP SCOPE Newsletter n°130). Innovation and research is today orientated to enable use of varied organic secondary materials as inputs whilst ensuring traceability, safety and predicable product quality; production technologies to improve quality and nutrient content; customised formulations for specific crops or soils; improving understanding of nutrient mineralisation, impacts on soil microbial activity and agronomic effectiveness; combinations with mineral nutrients (organo-mineral formulations) and information of farmers.

David Lebret, Innovafeed, introduced the agronomic and environmental benefits of insect frass as an organic fertiliser. Innovafeed operates two insect farms in northern France, upcycling wheat by-products to rear black soldier fly larvae, generating proteins and oil for animal nutrition as well as insect frass (a mixture of insect faeces and used substrate) for plant nutrition: Gouzeaucourt (pilot scale, capacity 1.000T/yr protein & 6.000T/yr raw frass ) and Nesle (industrial scale, 15.000T/yr protein & 50.000T/yr processed frass).  Insect frass both supports plant growth (thanks to a combination of N, P and K nutrients, both rapidly and more slowly available) and stimulates soil activity (high concentration in organic matter content and presence of beneficial bacteria and chitin with biostimulation effects). See IPIFF position in ESPP eNews n°40.

Hugh MacGillivray, Anuvia, presented the company’s innovative organo-mineral fertiliser, made by fixing mineral N, S and P to amino acids using inputs such as food waste, manure, agricultural by-products and wastewater residuals. A pilot production plant has now been operating for five years (???? t/y) and a 1.2 million t/y plant is now under construction in partnership with Mosaic. The product offers controlled nutrient release: 70% N in 2-3 weeks and the remaining 30% in the following two months. Over 350 field trials show an average +5% yield compared to mineral fertilisers, and studies suggest also lower nutrient losses, plant nutrition stable over time and lower overall greenhouse emissions (-10%).

Innovation and research

Michael McLaughlin, University of Adelaide, outlined the very wide range of innovations in fertiliser technologies, both for products, in patents and research publication. These include: delivering mineral fertilisers as nanomaterials, layered double hydroxides, graphene-based materials, hydrogels, zeolites, stabilised N fertilisers, sulphur-polymer composites, metal-organic molecules, microbes and biostimulants.

Phil Pardey, University of Minnesota, summarised data since the 1970’s on global agricultural R&D spending. Developed countries have a considerably reduced share of global public spending on agriculture R&D which became particularly pronounced after 2000. Many high-income countries have also reorientated research away from productivity, e.g. towards sustainability. The share of global agricultural R&D spending by low-income countries has also shrunk, but there is substantial growth in Asia and Brazil. Agriculture R&D is increasingly privately funded and performed. Nearly ¾ of total agriculture R&D spending occurs in just 10 countries, with China accounting for over ¼ of the global total.

Biostimulants

Patrick Brown, UC-Davis, suggested that biostimulants all function by helping plants to deal with stress (i.e. increase crop system resilience), for example water stress or nutrient limitations. Environmental stress of crops is ubiquitous, so the potential value of biostimulants is significant. There are however major challenges for R&D, product development and testing, in that biostimulant effect will be related to occurrence of stress, which is unpredictable and often different stresses occur at the same time. Precision agriculture can however improve this targeting.

Manish Raizada, University of Guelph, Canada, showed that microbial biostimulants can have a range of functions, including solubilising minerals in soil such as P, K, Zn, Si so making them plant available, promoting root growth so improving fertiliser uptake, improving yield by promoting growth, combating plant pathogenic microbes. In particular, he presented developments in nitrogen fixing microbes: recent work has shown that repeated rhizobia inoculation through the growing season can increase yields of soy (a legume, which “naturally” has such nitrogen-fixing microbes), and combining rhizobia with other specific bacteria or fungi can also increase yields. There are many nitrogen-fixing rhizobia microbe products on the market.

Luca Bonini, Hello Nature, presented some crop benefits shown for the company’s peptide biostimulant. In spinach, yield was increased +8% (with nitrogen fertiliser) to +33% (no N fertiliser): the peptides are thought to act as signalling molecules, inducing nutrient uptake by the plant. In lettuce, the peptides showed to reduce yield loss caused by salinity: that is, mitigate plant stress. A biostimulant containing micro-organisms and root-stimulating peptides showed to increase both weight yield and sugar contents in melons. He underlined the need for more research and innovation into biostimulants, tailor-made to specific needs, and for field trials with different crops in different conditions, in order to provide appropriate information to farmers.

Andrea Bagnolini, Salvi Vivai (Italy’s leading fruit tree nursery), indicated that there are three types of biostimulants most used on fruit farms: to improve nutrient uptake, without increasing the use of fertilisers and respecting regulation whilst improving yield (this helped Salvi Vivai to grow the Guinness Book of Records biggest cherry in the world in 2020); to improve crop stress resilience; and to ensure uniform size of fruit, which is important for market value.

 

 

Research and science

 

Will atmospheric P deposition significantly impact peat bog carbon storage?

Mid-latitude peatlands are estimated to hold 0.23 Gt of phosphorus (1.7% of global soil P). A study of 23 such bogs worldwide suggests that increased atmospheric P deposition increases decomposition and reduces carbon fixation. From literature, data on P, N and C in ombrotrophic* peatlands at different depths was identified for 23 sites worldwide, with time accumulation data available for 11 of these (using radioactive dating). This data was combined with rates of P, N and C accumulation in the acrotelm** and catotelm** from a bog in Sweden. Atmospheric P deposition is the limiting nutrient for such peat bogs, limiting productivity and nitrogen fixation in the upper layers, but also limiting decomposition in the lower layers. P:N ratio in accumulated organic material in the catotelm (lower layers) is thus significantly lower than that in the acrotelm (upper layers), as P is recycled in the acrotelm. The field data show a strong positive correlation between phosphorus accumulation in the catotelm and decomposition of organic carbon, and a negative correlation between the catotelm P:N ratio and carbon burial. The authors conclude that although increased P input to such peat bogs will increase primary carbon fixation, the overall impact will be a significant reduction in the carbon burial rate, or possibly even net carbon loss. Questions are therefore raised about how much atmospheric P deposition has increased with anthropogenic activity (e.g. burning fossil fuels) compared to natural sources (desert dust, pollen …) – see ESP eNews n°43. The authors note that deposition to peat bogs will vary considerably with local sources depending on nearby soils and vegetation (dust, pollen). Further work is needed to better understand potential carbon impacts of P deposition to peat bogs at local and global scales.

* ombrotrophic (from Greek: cloud fed) = receiving water and nutrients only from rain, not runoff.
** acrotelm = living and catotelm = dead layers of a peat bog, the catotelm generally being the deeper layer or below the water table, where oxygen is not available.

“Phosphorus supply controls the long-term functioning of mid-latitude ombrotrophic peatlands”, EarthArXiv pre-review preprint 2021, D. Schillereff et al., DOI.

 

 

Field trials of animal bone char as fertiliser

Five year field tests were carried out to compare animal bone char, sulphur-modified animal bone char, triple super phosphate (TSP) and control (no P fertilisers), on soils with three different initial levels of phosphorus. The bone char was purchased from Bonechar Carvao Ativado do Brasil https://www.bonechar.com.br/ and is produced by pyrolysis of animal bones at >800°C, resulting in a material with c. 12% carbon and 70 – 75 % hydroxyapatite (calcium phosphate) content, marketed since 1987 as an activated charcoal material for applications in the food industry, waste treatment, decontamination. The sulphur-modified animal bone char is treated with reduced sulphur gas compounds, e.g. H2S, according to a 2021 patent application. The field trials were carried out in Braunschweig, Lower Saxony, Germany, with a crop rotation of winter barley, winter oilseed rape, winter wheat, lupin and winter rye. In the first year, on P deficient soil, the control (zero P fertiliser) gave 90% yield compared to TSP, bone char 94%, sulphur bone char 95%. Similar significant differences in yield showed in years 3 and 4, and no significant differences between fertiliser treatments in years 2 and 5.

A second paper analyses the changes in soil bacteria related to P turnover in the field trial soils. Effects of fertilisation with animal bone char and sulphur-modified animal bone char were compared (for soils with very low, low and optimal initial P concentrations) to no P fertilisation (control) and to conventional TSP under winter wheat. Sulphur-enriched bone char addition increased the P-solubilisation potential of soil bacteria. Low  soil P concentration and bone char fertilisation favoured P recycling from biomass and bacteria P-uptake systems, indicated by high abundance of bacteria with phoD or pstS genes. Bacterial P turnover was influenced by the sulphur-enriched bone char, by the plant development stage and by the initial P concentration.

“Agronomic evaluation of bone char as phosphorus fertiliser after five years of consecutive application”, K. Panten, P. Leinweber, Journal für Kulturpflanzen, 72 (12). S. 561–576, 2020, ISSN 1867-0911, DOI

“Effects of different innovative bone char based P fertilizers on bacteria catalyzing P turnover in agricultural soils”, Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 314 (2021) 107419, DOI.

 

Pyrolysis reduces availability of phosphorus in poultry manure

Granulated poultry manure showed the same P fertiliser efficiency as superphosphate, but was less than half as effective after pyrolysis. N fertiliser efficiency was reduced by more than 90% after pyrolysis. Fertiliser efficiency was tested in five-month pot trials with rye grass in low-P soil, pH 6.5. Poultry manure (bedded with Sphagnum peat) was tested after granulation to 3 – 6 mm (from Biolan), after mixing with feather meal and after pyrolysis at 460°C for 90 minutes. Yield-based fertiliser efficiency was compared to mineral phosphate fertiliser (superphosphate). The granulated poultry manure showed the same P-efficiency as superphosphate (100%) over one growing season, the mixture with feather meal somewhat lower efficiency (75%) and the pyrolysed poultry manure much lower P-efficiency (45%). Soil inoculation with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) did not enhance the P-efficiency. In a previous paper, the N fertiliser efficiency of the pyrolysed poultry manure showed (in the same pot trials) to be only 3% that of mineral N fertiliser, compared to 45 – 50% for granulated manure.

“Bioavailability of phosphorus in granulated and pyrolyzed broiler manure”, M. Sarvi et al., Environmental Technology & Innovation 23 (2021) 101584 DOI.  “Granulated broiler manure based organic fertilizers as sources of plant available nitrogen”, R. Keskinen et al., Environmental Technology & Innovation 18 (2020) 100734 DOI.

 

Struvite effective fertiliser with lower P-loss risk

Pot trials with maize and soy conclude that blending 25% - 50% struvite with mineral P fertiliser reduces P-loss risk without restricting early-season growth. Soil pH was 5.6. Struvite (Ostara) was granule size 1.5 – 3 mm and mineral P fertiliser was MAP (mono ammonium phosphate) granule size 3 mm. Maize and soybean biomass was measured after 44-45 days. Maize showed the same biomass production with 25% or 50% struvite compared to 100% MAP. Soy showed the same biomass production with 25% struvite. Results for P-uptake were, however, very different. P-uptake was the same for up to 100% struvite with maize, but was higher with struvite than with MAP for soy . Residual soil Mehlich-3 phosphorus decreased with increasing % of struvite used, suggesting lower risks of P-losses to surface waters.

“Maize and soybean response to phosphorus fertilization with blends of struvite and monoammonium phosphate”, A. Hertzberger et al., Plant Soil 2021 DOI.

 

Global Phosphorus Institute launched

The new institute, GPI, launched by the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, Morocco, aims to promote global, science based research and innovation and collaboration on industrial phosphorus use and nutrient stewardship. It will be led by Amit Roy, previously with IFDC and Global Traps, and has an Advisory Board chaired by the President of the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University and including representatives of the Morocco Ministry of Agriculture, the US Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance, industry experts and scientists. The GPI aims to bring together leading scientists, industry, policy makers and stakeholders, to develop inclusive dialogue and collaboration, and to create and share innovative solutions to balance the need and use of phosphorus in the production of health food, animal feed and natural fibres, in the spirit of the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development. www.tgpi.org

 

Stay informed

SCOPE newsletter: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/SCOPEnewsletter          eNews newsletter: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNewshome
If you do not already receive SCOPE and eNews (same emailing list), subscribe at www.phosphorusplatform.eu/subscribe
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/european-sustainable-phosphorus-platform/            Twitter: @phosphorusfacts         
Slideshare presentations: www.slideshare.net/NutrientPlatform

 

ESPP members

ESPP members logos 2 2021

 

ASLO (Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography) Special Session (SS06) on Methane Accumulation in Oxic Aquatic Environments: Sources, Sinks and Subsequent Fluxes to The Atmosphere. Within the 2021 Aquatic Sciences Meeting (online, 22-27 June 2021). In partnership with the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) and ASLO, ESPP and SPA will follow-up with a webinar to exchange between science, water stakeholders and policy makers on implications of aquatic methane emissions for nutrient management. Proposals for input are welcome.

ASLO special session on methane in oxic aquatic environments: https://www.aslo.org/2021-virtual-meeting/session-list/

Contact Mina Bizic 

To contribute to the ESPP- SPA- IGB webinar: contact 

7th July 2021, 10h30 - 16h30 CEST. Online conference will look at current status and future developments in phosphorus removal from wastewater, P-stewardship and P-recovery. Speakers include the UK Environment Agency, Isle Utilities, The Rivers Trust, several UK water companies, ESPP.

https://event.wwtonline.co.uk/phosphorus/

The European Commission has published its Zero Pollution Action Plan, part of the Green Deal, including proposed actions on nutrient loss reduction, nutrient recycling, sewage reuse, ammonia emissions as well as putting a price to pollution, actioning the polluter-pays principle and incentives for alternatives. The Plan is presented as a ”compass for including pollution prevention in all relevant EU policies”. The Zero Pollution Hierarchy is emphasised: 1) prevent pollution by clean-by-design production and the circular economy, 2) minimise releases and exposure, 3) eliminate and remediate. An emphasis is placed on stricter implementation and enforcement.

The Zero Pollution Targets for 2030 include reducing nutrient losses by 50% (specifying as compared to 2012-2015), as already set in both the Farm-to-Fork and Biodiversity Strategies (see SCOPE Newsletter n°131).

The Plan states that this will be achieved by “implementing and enforcing the relevant environmental and climate legislation in full, identifying with Member States the nutrient load reductions needed to achieve these goals, applying balanced fertilisation and sustainable nutrient management, stimulating the markets for recovered nutrients and by managing nitrogen and phosphorus better throughout their lifecycle”. It will be promoted by the Mission ‘ Soil Health and Food’, and the agricultural European Innovation Partnership (EIP AGRI). The Mission ‘Healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters’ will also address nutrients.

In order to make livestock farming more sustainable, the Commission will “facilitate the placing on the market of alternative feed materials and innovative feed additives”.

The need to further reduce ammonia emissions will be assessed, in particular from intensive livestock, possibly by actions under the Common Agricultural Policy or by “making manure handling blinding

The already engaged reviews of the Urban Waste Water Treatment and Sewage Sludge Directives will “increase the ambition level to remove nutrients from wastewater and make treated water and sludge ready for reuse, supporting more circular, less polluting farming. It will also address emerging pollutants such as microplastics and micropollutants, including pharmaceuticals”.

The announced Integrated Nutrient Management Action Plan (consultation expected later in 2021 see www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory) will maximise synergies between policies and use “the green architecture of the new common agricultural policy, especially via conditionality and eco-schemes”.

The annexed list of actions includes, for 2023, to “Compile and make accessible in a digital format all main obligations on nutrient management stemming from EU law to limit the environmental footprint of farming activities”.

European Commission “Pathway to a Healthy Planet for All. EU Action Plan: 'Towards Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil”, SWD(2021)140 - SWD(2021)141, 12th May 2021 https://ec.europa.eu/environment/strategy/zero-pollution-action-plan_fr

Methane emissions are estimated to represent c. 20% of greenhouse impact of fossil fuels and ¾ of climate change impact of lakes and reservoirs, and are increased by eutrophication (see SCOPE Newsletter n°137). Increasing eutrophication globally could increase lake and reservoir methane emissions to 38 – 58 % of current fossil fuel greenhouse impact by 2100. Societal costs of lake and reservoir methane emissions are estimated at 7 – 80 trillion US$ (total for the years 2015 – 2050), using US Government Interagency Working Group methodology. This does not include methane emissions from rivers, coastal waters and oceans, nor does it include other aquatic greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, N2O). The methodology was applied to Lake Erie, North America, to compare estimated societal costs of eutrophication impacts on leisure fishing or on beach closures (due to harmful algae blooms). The conclusion is that societal costs of eutrophication-driven methane emissions are an order of magnitude higher than either of these local societal costs, and also higher than the estimated cost of reducing nutrient inputs to the lake by 40% by changing agricultural practices. The study notes that are not here considered other local societal costs of eutrophication, in particular loss to property value and possible health risks from toxic algae blooms, but that the climate costs of methane emissions are nonetheless a very significant societal cost of eutrophication.

“Protecting local water quality has global benefits”, J. Downing et al., Nature Communications (2021), 12:2709, DOI.

NOTE: ASLO Special Session (SS06) on Methane Accumulation in Oxic Aquatic Environments, part of the ASLO 2021 Aquatic Sciences Meeting 22-27 June 2021 online - Website

The European Commission has published its third report towards criteria for using “By-Products” as Component Materials for EU fertilising products (CMC11, additives and CMC-WWfor comment by 16th August 2021, under the new EU Fertilising Products Regulation 2019/100). The 180-page document now proposes detailed criteria for which families of by-product would be eligible, with proposed quality/purity criteria, contaminant limits, process input material exclusions, etc. This will be discussed at the EU Fertilisers Expert Group 24-25 June, at which ESPP is represented.

The following summarises ESPP’s understanding of the JRC proposal after a first reading – it may not be correct. We will try to verify whether our understanding is correct and publish an updated summary and proposed comments and input in coming weeks.

The new proposal is significantly narrower than was suggested in March this year (CMC-WW initial proposal, see ESPP eNews n°53). ESPP’s request to widen to “derivates” (see ESPP eNews n°54), that is the eligible by-products can only be included in an EU fertilising product with no further chemical processing, they cannot be used as a precursor to produce other materials (note that by-products can be used as precursors in CMC1, but not if they have “waste” status).

The new JRC proposal is somewhat complex, with four different routes:

Routes (1) and (2) are subject to the requirements that (a) the material must be a “by-product” as defined under the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC, (b) Animal By-Products, polymers, compost and digestate are excluded, and (c) the material must be REACH registered (with conditions). For routes (1) and (2) a specific list of contaminant limits is defined.

(1) By-products from seven specified industrial processes: methionine, mineral ore processing (this category includes by-product gypsums and phosphogypsums), Solvay process, acetylene production, ferrous slags, specific metal treatments, humic/fulvic acids from drinking water treatment;

(2) (any) by-product used as a “technical additive” at <5% total in the final EU fertilising product.

Routes (3) and (4) are “CMC-WW High Purity Materials”, which was originally proposed in March this year (see ESPP eNews n°54). This proposal has been significantly narrowed and now covers ONLY mineral salts of ammonia, sulphur (inc. elemental sulphur), calcium carbonate or calcium oxide, subject to 95% purity and organic carbon < 0.5%. These mineral salts must also respect a detailed and extensive limits of contaminant limits, and must be REACH registered (with conditions). They can result from:

(3) any “production” process, to which inputs can be any material (chemicals, biomass, waste …) other than Animal By-Products

(4) gas purification from (to simplify): hygienised manure, livestock housing, storage of non-hygienised manure, non-hazardous wastes or any other material except Animal By-Products

European Commission JRC “Technical proposals for by-products and high purity materials as component materials for EU Fertilising Products. Interim report”, 14 June 2021 https://circabc.europa.eu/ui/group/36ec94c7-575b-44dc-a6e9-4ace02907f2f/library/785d1835-07b3-4b3c-a46a-e269a33c74c7/details

Comments are open to 16th August but can only be submitted via members of the EU Fertilisers Expert Group. Please therefore send all comments to ESPP  before 16th July, in order to enable them to be taken into account.

Newsletter about nutrient stewardship - European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform (ESPP)

Please subscribe www.phosphorusplatform.eu/Subscribe 
Link to www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNews055
Download as PDF

Events
Nutrients, aquatic methane emissions and climate change: 22-27 June 2021
Future of Phosphorus Removal in Wastewater 2021

Policy
EU Zero Pollution Action Plan published
Amended EU Standards Mandate for fertilising products
EU sewage and sludge Directives update process
EU consultation on Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWT)
EU consultation on Algae Sector
EU policies could reduce phosphorus losses by 20%

Industry and technology
Ragn-Sells and Kemira join forces in phosphorus recycling from sewage sludge
Nitrate and other nutrient recycling from drinking water to fertigation

Research
“Legacy P” and field slope
Poland: climate change will impede water quality objectives
UNESCO report on Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs)
Aquatic methane emissions cost society 0.2 – 2.3 trillion US$/year globally
Economic policy instruments for P sustainability
English Channel: Atmospheric P deposition not biologically significant
Biochar improves soil P availability but only in some soils

Stay informed

ESPP members

 

Events 

Nutrients, aquatic methane emissions and climate change: 22-27 June 2021

ASLO (Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography) Special Session (SS06) on Methane Accumulation in Oxic Aquatic Environments: Sources, Sinks and Subsequent Fluxes to The Atmosphere. Within the 2021 Aquatic Sciences Meeting (online, 22-27 June 2021). In partnership with the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) and ASLO, ESPP and SPA will follow-up with a webinar to exchange between science, water stakeholders and policy makers on implications of aquatic methane emissions for nutrient management. Proposals for input are welcome.

ASLO special session on methane in oxic aquatic environments: https://www.aslo.org/2021-virtual-meeting/session-list/

Contact Mina Bizic

To contribute to the ESPP- SPA- IGB webinar: contact

 

Future of Phosphorus Removal in Wastewater 2021

7th July 2021, 10h30 - 16h30 CEST. Online conference will look at current status and future developments in phosphorus removal from wastewater, P-stewardship and P-recovery. Speakers include the UK Environment Agency, Isle Utilities, The Rivers Trust, several UK water companies, ESPP.

https://event.wwtonline.co.uk/phosphorus/

 

Policy

 

EU Zero Pollution Action Plan published

The European Commission has published its Zero Pollution Action Plan, part of the Green Deal, including proposed actions on nutrient loss reduction, nutrient recycling, sewage reuse, ammonia emissions as well as putting a price to pollution, actioning the polluter-pays principle and incentives for alternatives. The Plan is presented as a ”compass for including pollution prevention in all relevant EU policies”. The Zero Pollution Hierarchy is emphasised: 1) prevent pollution by clean-by-design production and the circular economy, 2) minimise releases and exposure, 3) eliminate and remediate. An emphasis is placed on stricter implementation and enforcement.

The Zero Pollution Targets for 2030 include reducing nutrient losses by 50% (specifying as compared to 2012-2015), as already set in both the Farm-to-Fork and Biodiversity Strategies (see SCOPE Newsletter n°131).

The Plan states that this will be achieved by “implementing and enforcing the relevant environmental and climate legislation in full, identifying with Member States the nutrient load reductions needed to achieve these goals, applying balanced fertilisation and sustainable nutrient management, stimulating the markets for recovered nutrients and by managing nitrogen and phosphorus better throughout their lifecycle”. It will be promoted by the Mission ‘ Soil Health and Food’, and the agricultural European Innovation Partnership (EIP AGRI). The Mission ‘Healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters’ will also address nutrients.

In order to make livestock farming more sustainable, the Commission will “facilitate the placing on the market of alternative feed materials and innovative feed additives”.

The need to further reduce ammonia emissions will be assessed, in particular from intensive livestock, possibly by actions under the Common Agricultural Policy or by “making manure handling blinding

The already engaged reviews of the Urban Waste Water Treatment and Sewage Sludge Directives will “increase the ambition level to remove nutrients from wastewater and make treated water and sludge ready for reuse, supporting more circular, less polluting farming. It will also address emerging pollutants such as microplastics and micropollutants, including pharmaceuticals”.

The announced Integrated Nutrient Management Action Plan (consultation expected later in 2021 see www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory) will maximise synergies between policies and use “the green architecture of the new common agricultural policy, especially via conditionality and eco-schemes”.

The annexed list of actions includes, for 2023, to “Compile and make accessible in a digital format all main obligations on nutrient management stemming from EU law to limit the environmental footprint of farming activities”.

European Commission “Pathway to a Healthy Planet for All. EU Action Plan: 'Towards Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil”, SWD(2021)140 - SWD(2021)141, 12th May 2021 https://ec.europa.eu/environment/strategy/zero-pollution-action-plan_fr

 

Amended EU Standards Mandate for fertilising products

Proposed amendments to the mandate to CEN for standards to support the new EU Fertilising Products Regulation include different standards to determine P solubility in inorganic fertilisers, and composition and contaminants in STRUBIAS materials. Standards to assess total P2O5 content, water soluble, NAC, formic acid and citrate soluble P2O5+ are requested for inorganic, organic and organo-mineral fertilisers. Standards to assess dry matter and contents of organic carbon, P2O5, iron, aluminium and several contaminants and pathogens are requested for Precipitated Phosphate Salts or their Derivates, standards for various contaminants (inc. PAH16, PCDD/F-equiv are requested for ashes/ash derived products and for biochars, as well as H/C-org for biochars.

Document for consultation https://ec.europa.eu/docsroom/documents/45687 (Draft amendment to Commission Implementing Decision C(2020) 612 final of 10.2.2020 on a standardisation request to the European Committee for Standardisation as regards the EU fertilising products in support of Regulation (EU) 2019/1009). Comments by 16/6/2021 to

 

EU sewage and sludge Directives update process

A European Commission stakeholder workshop emphasised the need to address contaminants in sewage sludge (especially pharmaceuticals, microplastics, heavy metals and PFAS/PFOS) and showed support for regulatory mechanisms to support phosphorus recycling (blending obligation or % recycling requirement). The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD) was evaluated in 2018, concluding “fit for purpose” but possibilities for improvements. The Sewage Sludge Directive (SSD) is currently undergoing evaluation. DG ENVI highlighted that the SSD is part of the Green Deal agenda, with objectives of climate neutrality, zero pollution and circular economy, and is cited in the EU Methane Strategy. A 2014 evaluation of the SSD concluded that it is “fit for purpose”. An aim of the current evaluation is to strengthen regulation of pollutants in sewage sludge. Two EU JRC projects were presented: modelling impacts of micropollutants in sewage sludge, assessing climate emissions impacts of UWWTD and SSD policies. Studies presented suggested that micropollutants present in sewage sludge may not pose adverse risk to soil, but that long term sludge use in agriculture led to levels of PFAS which could impact earthworms. The lack of information on microplastics was noted. The importance of source control, reducing or preventing input of contaminants into sewage where possible, was emphasised. Phosphorus and nitrogen recovery from sewage were discussed, with much stakeholder support expressed for phosphorus recycling policies such as a blending obligation (including a certain level of recycled P in fertilisers) or a % P-recycling requirement.

Trinomics, for European Commission DG Environment “Evaluation of the Sewage Sludge Directive 86/278/EEC” http://trinomics.eu/project/6515-sewage-sludge-directive-86-278-eec/

 

EU consultation on Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWT)

Open to 21 July 2021. This is a general public questionnaire, plus additional questions for experts and operators – you do not have to answer all questions. Questions ask what should be priorities for action (nutrients are one of seven proposed priorities), how to improve protection of nutrient “Sensitive Areas”, addressing micropollutants, circularity (proposals include recovery obligations for phosphorus and other materials).

“Water pollution – EU rules on urban wastewater treatment”, EU public consultation open to 21 July 2021.

EU consultation on Algae Sector

Open to 11 August 2021. Environmental footprint of algae and environmental benefits of algae products are addressed, as are impact on CO2, nutrients capture and bioremediation. The use of algae for waste treatment (e.g. nutrient removal from wastewater, CO2 or NOx abatement), and regulatory questions around such waste-fed algae (e.g. End-of-Waste) are not addressed, but can be added in the comments boxes.

“Public consultation on the EU Algae initiative”, EU public consultation open 11 August  2021.

 

EU policies could reduce phosphorus losses by 20%

A modelling study concludes that ambitious but technically feasible policy actions on municipal waste water treatment and on agricultural fertilisation could reduce total EU nitrogen and phosphorus losses to surface waters by -14% and -20% respectively. The study was led by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. This ambitious but technically feasible scenario (MTFR = High Technically Feasible Reduction) considers that all municipal sewage works are upgraded to the highest nutrient removal level (tertiary treatment with “enhanced” phosphorus removal) and agricultural fertilisation is set to limit nitrogen surplus to 10% of N in output, and P is reduced correspondingly. The study concludes that this would “only slightly” increase proportion of surface waters in good ecological status (as defined by the Water Framework Directive). The study notes that the resulting differential reductions in N and P losses could worsen nutrient unbalances in coastal waters. ESPP considers that the study shows that technically feasible actions on sewage treatment and agricultural fertilisation can significantly reduce nutrient losses, but that this reduction is much less than the -50% nutrient loss reduction target fixed by the EU Farm-to-Fork strategy (see SCOPE Newsletter n°139) and that a combination of other measures not assessed in this study will be needed for higher nutrient loss reductions and to achieve Water Framework Directive ecological quality objectives, for example: phosphorus traps and buffer strips in fields, morphological restauration of rivers, recreation of wetlands, treatment of discharges from small settlements and isolated households, treatment of stormwaters …

“How EU policies could reduce nutrient pollution in European inland and coastal waters?”, B. Grizzetti et al., Global Environmental Change

Volume 69, July 2021, 102281 DOI.

 

Industry and technology

 

Ragn-Sells and Kemira join forces in phosphorus recycling from sewage sludge

Kemira and Ragn-Sells’ daughter company EasyMining (both ESPP members) have announced a collaboration to recover phosphorus from sewage sludge at Kemira’s industrial site in Helsingborg. This means that EasyMining takes the next step and continues with the plans to build a plant for phosphorus recycling from 30,000 t/y of sewage sludge incineration ash to be operational in 2025. The patented Ash2Phos technology from EasyMining attacks the ash with hydrochloric acid, then uses purification processes to separate out a high-grade calcium phosphate which can technically be used in fertiliser production, animal feed (see ESPP eNews n°52), or the chemicals industry, recovering more than 90% of the phosphorus contained in the ash. The process can also recover iron and aluminium present in the ash separately for e.g. recycling by Kemira as a coagulant for chemical P-removal in sewage works. The new plant will create 30 jobs within Kemira’s Helsingborg industrial park, South West Sweden. Sewage sludge ash is expected to come from Sweden but also to be imported via the site’s maritime access. The project has been granted 5 M€ from Sweden’s climate fund (Klimatklivet).

“Ragn-Sells and Kemira jointly engage in phosphorus recycling from sewage sludge” - Kemira and Ragn-Sells Newsroom

 

Nitrate and other nutrient recycling from drinking water to fertigation

Agua DB has demonstrated a process to recover nitrate from drinking water nitrate removal, and recycle with K, S, Ca and Mg to local agriculture via fertigation. Ion-exchange is today widely used to remove nitrates from drinking water, but uses salt for regeneration. This generates a phytotoxic sodium nitrate brine, which has to be disposed, often via expensive truck transport. The Agua DB process uses water quality potash (KCl) for regeneration, instead of salt, in significantly lower quantities, so generating liquors rich in sulphate, nitrate and potassium, which can be used for fertigation in local agriculture. These can partially replace synthetic fertilisers and reduce use of potash by farmers, so reducing salination (Cl input) to farmland. A three months pilot project with Affinity Water (a UK drinking water company supplying 3.6 million people), showed effective nitrate removal down to 5 mgN/l.  Red Russian Kale was grown hydroponically with the fertigation liquor providing 60% of the required nutrients, showing performance comparable to synthetic nutrients and good nutrient density in the crop. Fertigation and application of N to soil as nitrate is suggested to have agronomic benefits including improved yields with reduced fertiliser application and run-off, more efficient use of water and the potential to link irrigation water storage schemes into flood mitigation measures. The technology could also be adapted for tertiary N-removal from sewage works and can be used in industry or desalination plants.

See presentation by Mike Waite at the AquaEnviro conference “The Art of the Possible: Resource Recovery from Wastewater and Bioresources”, May 18th 2021 and presentation here from 38 minutes.

Research

 

 

“Legacy P” and field slope

A study of an 8 ha field in SW Ontario, Canada, under maize – soy – alfalfa rotation shows that phosphorus accumulates over time in the lower parts of the field (“toe-slope” and “foot”). Soil was sampled once, in October (after harvest) at 50 sites, 10 in each of the slope classification areas (toe, foot, back, shoulder, summit). Toe and foot zones made up nearly 60% of the field area. Elevation of the field varied by about 4 m between the lowest point and the highest summit with slopes up to 15%. Results show topsoil thickness 40 -  50 % greater in foot and toe zones than in back, shoulder and summit, and mean organic carbon stock also 30 – 80 % higher. Soil Olsen-P stock showed even more pronounced accumulation in the lower parts of the field, at around 50 kg-OlsenP/ha in toe and foot zones, compared to around 20 kg/ha in summit zones. The authors conclude that soil erosion over time moves legacy P to the lower zones of the field, along with top soil, smaller soil particles and organic carbon. The study does not provide any indication as to how this local accumulation of P within the field might impact P losses to surface water.

“Spatial decoupling of legacy phosphorus in cropland: Soil erosion and deposition as a mechanism for storage”, A. VandenBygaart et al., Soil & Tillage Research 211 (2021) 105050 DOI.

 

 

Poland: climate change will impede water quality objectives

A study of 18 surface water bodies in Upper Sileasia, Southern Poland, climate change will both increase nutrient losses from soils and accentuate the impact on water quality of P and N loads because of longer low-flow periods. Upper Silesia is an urbanised (4 million population) and industrialised region, with many coal mines pumping mine water into rivers. Nutrient removal is already largely installed in sewage works, and mine discharge water is expected to be reduced in the future, which will result is less dilution of nutrients. Nutrient loss from farmland was estimated as 20% of P and 50% of N in manure (based on livestock numbers) and 20% of and 88% of N applied in mineral fertilisers. Estimates of current nutrient load to the water bodies suggest that reductions of up to 90% for both P and N are needed to achieve water quality objectives, with most P and N inputs coming from agriculture in the majority of the catchments. The authors conclude that climate change will worsen nutrient-related water quality problems, by increasing agricultural losses because of extreme precipitation events and longer low-flow periods (reduced dilution). The level of nutrient removal in sewage works will not be significantly further improved, so that other measures will be necessary, targeting agriculture, treatment of fish pond discharge, landscaping and water management (which could include use of mine water to increase flows during low-flow periods).

“Impacts of nitrogen and phosphorus loads from various sources on the quality of surface water bodies in the context of climate change – case study in Poland”, A. Hamerla & B. Konczak, APP Ecology and Env Res 19(2) 1033-1048, 2021 DOI

 

 

UNESCO report on Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs)

A first-ever UN report shows that nearly 10 000 ocean Harmful Algal Blooms were recorded worldwide over 33 years, and that impacts are increasing with rising seafood demand and coastal development. 109 scientists from 35 countries analysed over 9 500 HAB events including 7 million microalgae data points, of which nearly 290 000 toxic algae species occurrences, using the Harmful Algal Event Database (HAEDAT). The widely suggested idea that blooms are increasing with climate change is not confirmed, with blooms increasing in some areas of the world and decreasing or steady in others. Increases in reported HAB events are correlated to increased monitoring and increases in perception are probably related to increased aquacultural production and coastal development. Both Europe and the Mediterranean regions show an increase trend in reported HAB events over the study period (from 1985 to 2018), but possibly with an apparent peak around the year 2000 and after that a decrease in HAB events in the Mediterranean region and fluctuations without a clear increase in Europe (see Hallegraeff et al. Fig. 3 p. 5). A large proportion of the societal impact of blooms was resulting closure of shellfish harvesting, with only rare cases of human poisoning. Economic losses caused by HABs to aquaculture are considerable, whereas in the open ocean wild fish can simply swim away from HABs. The number of recorded HABs over time was strongly correlated with intensification of aquaculture, but this is probably largely due to more intense monitoring. Data on nutrient pollution is considered inadequate to reach conclusions as what extent aquaculture contributes to causing HABs.

Report published by UNESCO (United Nations) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Harmful Algal Blooms (IOC-IPHAB, part of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission), 8 June 2021 http://hab.ioc-unesco.org/index.php

Harmful Agal Bloom Information Portal: https://data.hais.ioc-unesco.org/

“Perceived global increase in algal blooms is attributable to intensified monitoring and emerging bloom impacts”, G. Hallegraeff et al., Nature Communications Earth & Environment (2021) 2:117 https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-021-00178-8

 

 

Aquatic methane emissions cost society 0.2 – 2.3 trillion US$/year globally

Methane emissions are estimated to represent c. 20% of greenhouse impact of fossil fuels and ¾ of climate change impact of lakes and reservoirs, and are increased by eutrophication (see SCOPE Newsletter n°137). Increasing eutrophication globally could increase lake and reservoir methane emissions to 38 – 58 % of current fossil fuel greenhouse impact by 2100. Societal costs of lake and reservoir methane emissions are estimated at 7 – 80 trillion US$ (total for the years 2015 – 2050), using US Government Interagency Working Group methodology. This does not include methane emissions from rivers, coastal waters and oceans, nor does it include other aquatic greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, N2O). The methodology was applied to Lake Erie, North America, to compare estimated societal costs of eutrophication impacts on leisure fishing or on beach closures (due to harmful algae blooms). The conclusion is that societal costs of eutrophication-driven methane emissions are an order of magnitude higher than either of these local societal costs, and also higher than the estimated cost of reducing nutrient inputs to the lake by 40% by changing agricultural practices. The study notes that are not here considered other local societal costs of eutrophication, in particular loss to property value and possible health risks from toxic algae blooms, but that the climate costs of methane emissions are nonetheless a very significant societal cost of eutrophication.

“Protecting local water quality has global benefits”, J. Downing et al., Nature Communications (2021), 12:2709, DOI.

NOTE: ASLO Special Session (SS06) on Methane Accumulation in Oxic Aquatic Environments, part of the ASLO 2021 Aquatic Sciences Meeting 22-27 June 2021 online - Website 

 

Economic policy instruments for P sustainability

A research paper suggests that fossil fuel and livestock cap-and-trade tools, combined with a livestock / land area ratio cap, would largely ensure sustainable phosphorus use. It is suggested that resulting energy price increases would reduce P fertiliser use, despite recognising that P-fertiliser production can have negative energy consumption, because of energy used to transport and spread fertilisers. It is not however considered that transport and application of organic and recycled fertilisers may use more energy (higher bulk, decentralised logistics). Cap-and-trade of livestock products would increase price and reduce consumption, so reducing need for P-fertiliser to produce animal feeds, including imported animal feed crops. These two tools would not however address regional livestock concentration, which results in regional nutrient excesses, and geographical distribution obstacles to recycling of manure nutrients. Limiting livestock numbers per land area would avoid regional livestock concentrations and could also be used to limit total national or EU livestock production. The paper also considers limiting total P-fertiliser consumption, e.g. by a certificate trading system for mineral P fertilisers placed on the EU market.

“Economic policy instruments for sustainable phosphorus management: taking into account climate and biodiversity targets”, B. Garske & F. Ekardt, Environ Sci Eur (2021) 33-56 DOI.

 

English Channel: Atmospheric P deposition not biologically significant

A study at a site on in the UK concludes that atmospheric phosphorus deposition to coastal water in the region is “unlikely to be biologically significant”. Aerosol-derived P deposition at the study site, on Cornwall coast, South UK, between the North Atlantic and the English Channel, was estimated at 0.16 – 1.6 µ-moles-P/m2/day, estimated to be consistently below 0.1% of water P standing stock. Atmospheric nitrogen deposition, on the other hand, was estimated to be significant, at 3 – 620 µ-moles-N/m2/day, contributing up to 20% of water DIN (dissolved inorganic nitrogen) in Spring, when water DIN levels are depleted by biological uptake. The atmospheric nitrogen input is estimated to contribute to up to 22% of primary algal growth at times in Spring. The study is based on aerosol samples collected at Penlee Point Atmospheric Observatory over six months, February to July 2015, corresponding to spring algal growth.

“Inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus in Western European aerosol and the significance of dry deposition flux into stratified shelf waters”, C. White et al., Atmospheric Environment, in print 2021, DOI.

 

Biochar improves soil P availability but only in some soils

A meta-analysis of published data suggests that biochar application improves soil P availability and on plant P uptake respectively +65% and +55% on average. This is not input of P in the biochar but an impact of the biochar on the soil – crop system. The study identified 516 data pairs (from 86 studies) comparing soil P availability or crop P uptake with or without biochar application. P availability data was mostly from laboratory soil incubation tests (175 data points) and pot trials (157) with also 106 field trials, whereas crop P uptake data was mostly from field trials (80) versus 72 pot trials. The most frequently tested biochars were from crop residue and wood (total 321 P availability data points), that is biochars which would contain relatively low levels of phosphorus, versus 98 for manure biochar and only 7 for sewage sludge biochar. The mean effects of biochar on soil P availability and on plant P uptake were respectively +65% and +55%, that is higher than biochar effects on N or C reported elsewhere from biochar application. However, the data suggested that biochar showed considerably greater effects on P availability and uptake in very low phosphorus soils, acid soils (pH < 5) and in heavy textured soils. Also, effects were greater for biochars pyrolysed below 300°C. ESPP note: this temperature limit poses questions in that other studies suggest that temperatures >400°C may be necessary to remove organic pollutants and antibiotic resistance genes in pyrolysis (see ESPP eNews n°s 52 and 54)

“Could biochar amendment be a tool to improve soil availability and plant uptake of phosphorus? A meta-analysis of published experiments”, F. Tesfaye et al., Environmental Science and Pollution Research 2021 DOI

 

Stay informed

SCOPE newsletter: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/SCOPEnewsletter          eNews newsletter: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNewshome
If you do not already receive SCOPE and eNews (same emailing list), subscribe at www.phosphorusplatform.eu/subscribe
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/european-sustainable-phosphorus-platform/            Twitter: @phosphorusfacts         
Slideshare presentations: www.slideshare.net/NutrientPlatform

 

ESPP members

ESPP members logos 1 2021

 

Murphy Ireland and Ostara have announced construction of a new Ostara Pearl® struvite recovery installation, with WASSTRIP®, as part of the upgrade of Irish Water’s Ringsend waste water treatment plant to 2.4 million p.e. capacity and conversion to biological phosphorus removal. Struvite production should start in 2023. Ringsend treats around 40% of Ireland’s wastewater and discharges into the nutrient Sensitive Area, Lower Liffey Estuary and Dublin Bay.

“Ostara and Murphy Partner to deliver part of Ringsend Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade Project for Irish Water”, 28th April 2021 press release.

Two significant projects to “mine” phosphate from secondary resources in Sweden were presented at the Nordic Circular Materials Conference: 21-22 April 2021. In both cases, the projects will extract phosphate from apatite minerals (phosphate rock family) present in tailings of from iron ore mining, either from operating iron production sites or from stocked tailings from closed mines. The apatite is mainly rare earth element substituted fluorapatite, e.g. monazite, low in cadmium and arsenic, and the extraction of the rare earths with the phosphate will enable economic viability.

Ulrika Håkansson, LKAB, presented the company’s project treating ore tailings from iron mines in Kiruna and Malmberget. LKAB’s objective is to be operational by 2027, producing c. 50 000 tP/year (five times Sweden’s mineral P fertiliser consumption), as apatite concentrate, and c. 30% of EU rare earth needs.

Christer Lindqvist presented the Grängesberg Apatite Recovery Project, which aims to recover apatite from stocked tailings of the Grangesberg iron mine (John Matts dam), which was the world’s biggest iron ore producer in the nineteenth century. The following rare earth elements will be produced: Y, La, Ce, Pr, Nd, Tb, Eu. Production will be around 13 000 tP/y, with the aim of starting within 3-4 years. The stocked tailings will support around seven years production, and this may be extended with a project to re-open the iron ore mine

Slides
 from Nordic Circular Materials Conference
LKAB secondary P-mining project: www.ree-map.com
Grängesberg Exploration Holding AB https://grangesbergexploration.se/

A review of around 100 scientific publications concludes that eutrophication significantly increases greenhouse gas emissions from freshwaters (CO2, methane, N2O). An increase of 5 µg/l of chlorophyll-a in lakes and reservoirs worldwide would result in an increase of GHG emissions equivalent to >6% of fossil fuel CO2.

The current GHG emissions from freshwaters worldwide are estimated to be equivalent to >30% of global fossil fuel CO2 emissions (56% from freshwater CO2 release, 40% from methane, 4% from N2O).

Eutrophic shallow lakes are estimated to emit nearly 50% more methane than comparable non-eutrophic lakes. Eutrophication increases organic matter production in fresh waters, but it is unclear whether the resulting net CO2 uptake will compensate for increased methane production, because the organic matter produced is readily degradable. Increased nitrogen loading to surface waters can cause them to shift from being N2O sinks to net N2O emitters. Eutrophication also increases freshwater GHG emissions indirectly, for example, by shifting from vegetation dominated by macrophytes to algae, whereas macrophyte roots tend to reduce methane production by moving oxygen to sediments. Also, cyanobacteria readily produce methane even in the oxic water zone, both at day and at night.

The review also shows that climate change is expected to significantly increase freshwater GHG emissions and eutrophication (see also ESPP SCOPE Newsletter n°137 on climate change and eutrophication), with positive feedback loops. Increasing temperatures will increase release of nutrients from sediments (accelerated mineralisation), as will extreme climate events (remobilisation of sediments). Both will also lead to increased nutrient losses from land to freshwaters. Increased temperatures may also favour methane production in freshwaters, rather than methane consumption.

This review confirms that policy makers need to further reduce nutrient inputs to surface waters, both because climate change will increase eutrophication risks, and because freshwater eutrophication contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.

“The role of freshwater eutrophication in greenhouse gas emissions: A review”, Y. Li et al., Science of the Total Environment 768 (2021) 144582 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144582

Some 280 participants took part in the EBA – ECN webinar on 28th April.

David Wilken, German Biogas Association, presented conclusions of the EBA – ECN European survey on perspectives for CE-marking of compost and biogas under the EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR), when it enters into implementation in July 2022. The survey received over 100 answers from 21 countries. A large majority of respondents considered that the future CE-mark will be relevant for composts and digestates, in particular as a route to obtaining End-of-Waste status and better marketability, although many do not expect it to bring higher sales revenue and most expect it to involve significant administrative burdens and costs (in particular for conformity assessment). Most respondents consider that digestate will need some process of upgrading to achieve FPR criteria (CMC5), e.g. composting of digestate, drying, liquid/solid separation. Manure is seen as a very relevant input material, as well as sewage sludge (which is however excluded from EU FPR composts and digestates), as well as a wide range of other materials.

Theodora Nikolakopoulou, DG GROW, addressed a range of questions concerning application of the FPR to composts and digestates : manures and animal-by products as inputs – do they have to be pasteurised upstream of composting/digestion?; multiplication of conformity assessments if one compost producer supplies several fertiliser producers; definition of “sludge”; additives used upstream of the digestion process (e.g. flocculation agents) – must be declared as a distinct CMC; demonstrating conformity to PAH limits – does not necessarily mean testing …

Digestate valorisation under the EU Fertilising Products Regulation, webinar, 28 April 2021 here. Links to slides and conference report.

Open to 21 July 2021. The consultation document notes that the 2019 evaluation of the 1991 UWWTD concluded that it is largely fit for purpose, but some aspects need to be improved, and updates should align with Green Deal environment and climate objectives. The consultation is a general public questionnaire, plus additional questions for experts and operators – you do not have to answer all questions. General questions ask what you see as important risks from municipal wastewater, key mitigation actions, priorities for action (nutrients are one of seven proposed priorities), how to improve protection of nutrient “Sensitive Areas”, addressing micropollutants, circularity (proposals include recovery obligations for phosphorus and other materials).

In particular, the question (p32 of the questionnaire in PDF) “How appropriate are the following proposed measures for building a more circular waste water treatment sector?” offers the option “Setting minimum levels for recovering phosphorous and other materials” (please NOTE: ‘5’ = important). ESPP will propose, under comments to this question, to Include materials from wastewater as a priority stream for development of EU End-of-Waste criteria under the Circular Economy Action Plan.

“Water pollution – EU rules on urban wastewater treatment”, Eu public consultation open to 21 July 2021.

The 4th European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference (ESPC4) is postponed (because of Covid). New dates are 20-22 June 2022 in Vienna

Updates: see www.phosphorusplatform.eu and https://phosphorusplatform.eu/espc4

Newsletter about nutrient stewardship - European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform (ESPP)

Please subscribe www.phosphorusplatform.eu/Subscribe 
Link to www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNews054
Download as PDF 

4th Phosphorus in Europe Research Meeting (PERM)
Registration now open!

Events
AquaEnviro Wastewater Resource Recovery Conference: 18 May 2021
SYSTEMIC: nutrients from biowaste, 27 May 2021
4th Phosphorus in Europe Research Meeting (PERM): 2 June 2021
IFA plant nutrition innovation conference: 8-10 June 2021
Nutrients, aquatic methane emissions and climate change: 22-27 June 2021
New dates for ESPC4: 20-22 June 2022

Policy

EU consultation on Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWT)
Joint action for End-of-Waste status for materials recycled from wastewaters
“Environmental Hazard Potential” of the CRM “Phosphate Rock”
Sewage Sludge Directive revision workshop
Safe recycling of nutrients to animal feed
European Parliament on Circular Economy

Fertilising Products Regulations

Digestate and compost in the EU Fertilising Products Regulation
France proposes “half waste” status for sewage sludge composts
Manure and Animal By Products in “STRUBIAS”
ESPP proposals for “CMC-WW”

Industry

Florida: state of emergency for disused phosphogypsum pond
New phosphate production planned in Sweden
Irish Water and Ostara to produce 14 t/day of struvite
Benefits of struvite

CRU Phosphates Conference 2021

Global phosphate market outlook
New EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FRP)
Fertiliser market trends in Europe
How EU policies will influence phosphorus use
EasyMining phosphorus recycling
Glatt PHOS4green
Phosphoric acid from low-grade phosphate rock
P4: outlook for a Critical Raw Material

Recycled nutrients in Organic Farming

RELACS: recycled nutrients in Organic Farming
Environment and health
Perspectives for acceptance of recycled nutrients in Organic Farming

Research

Eutrophication significantly increases greenhouse emissions
Biochar pyrolysis removes antibiotic resistance genes
Differing positions on sewage sludge use in agriculture
Phosphate fertiliser value of dairy processing sludges

Stay informed


ESPP members

 

4th Phosphorus in Europe Research Meeting (PERM)

Registration now open!

Online, 2nd June 2021

Event web page: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/PERM4
Registration: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0qcOmrrjouEtRlibbtiMrcZVSKb4MEvYyc


eu green week partner event

Events

AquaEnviro Wastewater Resource Recovery Conference: 18 May 2021

One day conference on resource recovery from wastewaters and biosolids, covering nutrient recovery, hydrogen and other materials: experience from pilot and full scale plants; market pull, user confidence and business models, regulatory framework, links to net zero carbon 2030 agenda for the UK wastewater industry.
“The Art of the Possible: Resource Recovery from Wastewater and Bioresources”, May 18th 2021 online  https://conferences.aquaenviro.co.uk/events/conferences/resource-recovery-from-wastewater/

 

 

SYSTEMIC: nutrients from biowaste, 27 May 2021

Webinar “Enabling a Circular Economy: How to encourage a viable agricultural market for nutrients recovered from biowaste”, with William Neale, Advisor, European Commission DG Environment, Jan Huitema, Member of the European Parliament, Ludwig Hermann, Proman and ESPP President, Oscar Schoumans, Wageningen University and Research, Annabelle Williams, European Landowners Association.
SYSTEMIC (Horizon 2020 project) webinar, Thursday 27th May: 13h30-15h30 CEST Registration

 

 

 

4th Phosphorus in Europe Research Meeting (PERM): 2 June 2021

This meeting, co-organised by ESPP, Biorefine Cluster Europe and ETA Renewable Energies, will link science, industry, agriculture and policy makers. EU-funded projects on nutrient sustainability and phosphorus recycling (Horizon2020, Interreg, LIFE…) and national and company nutrient projects will present, enabling dialogue and synergies. PERM will address how to improve uptake of project recommendations by policy makers and users, through to market, and identify perspectives for research and policy, and implementation gaps.

In parallel to PERM, ESPP is updating our online ‘inventory’ of nutrient-related R&D projects here.
PERM4 – online – 2nd June 2021: event website: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/PERM4
Registration: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0qcOmrrjouEtRlibbtiMrcZVSKb4MEvYyc
Proposals are welcome for presentations of studies into what factors in nutrient R&D projects improve uptake of conclusions by policy makers, industry and users.
If you wish your project to be included in the programme and/or added to the inventory of nutrient R&D projects, please contact

 

 

IFA plant nutrition innovation conference: 8-10 June 2021

The global fertiliser industry (International Fertilizer Association) “Smart & Green” conference will bring together scientists, industry and start-up technologies around controlled-release and stabilised fertilisers, biostimulants, incentivising and funding fertiliser innovation, digital fertiliser management, organic fertilisers and nutrient recycling.
IFA Smart & Green “where tech meets plant nutrition”, 8-10 June, online here.

 

 

Nutrients, aquatic methane emissions and climate change: 22-27 June 2021

ASLO (Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography) Special Session (SS06) on Methane Accumulation in Oxic Aquatic Environments: Sources, Sinks and Subsequent Fluxes to The Atmosphere. Within the 2021 Aquatic Sciences Meeting (online, 22-27 June 2021). In partnership with the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) and ASLO, ESPP and SPA will follow-up with a webinar to exchange between science, water stakeholders and policy makers on implications of aquatic methane emissions for nutrient management. Proposals for input are welcome.
ASLO special session on methane in oxic aquatic environments: https://www.aslo.org/2021-virtual-meeting/session-list/
Contact Mina Bizic
To contribute to the ESPP- SPA- IGB webinar: contact

 

 

New dates for ESPC4: 20-22 June 2022

The 4th European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference (ESPC4) is postponed (because of Covid). New dates are 20-22 June 2022 in Vienna. PERM, the European Phosphorus Research Meeting will be held virtually 2nd June 2021, see below.
Updates: see www.phosphorusplatform.eu and https://phosphorusplatform.eu/espc4

 

 

 

Policy

 

EU consultation on Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWT)

Open to 21 July 2021. The consultation document notes that the 2019 evaluation of the 1991 UWWTD concluded that it is largely fit for purpose, but some aspects need to be improved, and updates should align with Green Deal environment and climate objectives. The consultation is a general public questionnaire, plus additional questions for experts and operators – you do not have to answer all questions. General questions ask what you see as important risks from municipal wastewater, key mitigation actions, priorities for action (nutrients are one of seven proposed priorities), how to improve protection of nutrient “Sensitive Areas”, addressing micropollutants, circularity (proposals include recovery obligations for phosphorus and other materials).

In particular, the question (p32 of the questionnaire in PDF) “How appropriate are the following proposed measures for building a more circular waste water treatment sector?” offers the option “Setting minimum levels for recovering phosphorous and other materials” (please NOTE: ‘5’ = important). ESPP will propose, under comments to this question, to Include materials from wastewater as a priority stream for development of EU End-of-Waste criteria under the Circular Economy Action Plan.
“Water pollution – EU rules on urban wastewater treatment”, Eu public consultation open to 21 July 2021.

 

 

Joint action for End-of-Waste status for materials recycled from wastewaters

Over 120 (to date) industry and public water operator federations, companies and research institutes, have signed a joint letter to the European Commission requesting that materials recovered from wastewaters be included in the priority streams for development of EU End-of-Waste criteria, currently being defined under the EU Circular Economy Action Plan. Further organisations are still welcome to join this initiative and sign the letter (see below).

Recycled materials suggested include algae or plant biomass grown using wastewater; fibres, fatty acids, proteins, gums, fats and oils; phosphates and other chemicals or minerals for industrial applications (the route to EU End-of-Waste status for fertiliser applications already exists via the EU Fertilising Products Regulation); CO2; grit and sand. The request was initiated by ESPP and signatories to date include Eureau (European Federation of National Associations of Water Services), Aqua Publica Europea (European Association of Public Water Operators), EABA (European Algae Biomass Association), Biorefine Cluster Europe, Water Alliance Netherlands, AquaMinerals BV, ACR+ (Association of Cities and Regions for sustainable Resource management) …
Further signatory organisations are welcome: contact
The joint letter can be consulted here: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory

 

 

 

“Environmental Hazard Potential” of the CRM “Phosphate Rock”

The final report (Task 2) to the European Commission for preparation of the new working plan for the Ecodesign Directive proposes as a new horizontal Ecodesign initiative “Scarce materials and critical raw materials”, because “very relevant in relation to the circular economy action plan and also in relation to the individual product’s lifecycle”.

Phosphate Rock, which is on the EU Critical Raw Materials list, is identified to have “High EHP” (Environmental Hazard Potentials). This is based on Dehoust et al. 2020 (UBA report).

Dehoust classifies Phosphate Rock as medium concern for governance, but high impact for global material and energy flow and for aggregated Environmental Hazard Potentials. The latter is based on suggested medium EHP for heavy metals, accidental hazards due to landslides etc, water stress and deserts, protected areas and governance, but high for association with radioactivity, surface mining and use of chemicals in processing (acids, flotation). This seems to indicate in some cases misinformation, for example acid used in processing phosphate rock is systematically a by-product. The report concludes that Phosphate Rock is “environmentally critical”.

The EU Critical Raw Material “Phosphorus”, that is P4, is not considered in the Ecodesign report, which is inappropriate in that P4 and P4-derivatives are essential for e.g. electronics manufacture and plastics fire safety, both of which are necessary for many energy using products addressed by EU Ecodesign criteria. This may be because “Phosphorus” (P4) is not considered in the Dehoust / UBA document.
Task 2 “Identification of product groups and horizontal measures”, final draft, March 2021.
Task 3 “Preliminary analysis of product groups and horizontal initiatives”, “Scarce and environmentally critical raw materials”, draft, February 2021.
https://www.ecodesignworkingplan20-24.eu/
“Environmental Criticality of Raw Materials, An assessment of environmental hazard potentials of raw materials from mining and recommendations for an ecological raw materials policy”, G. Dehoust et al., UBA TEXTE 80/2020 https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/1410/publikationen/2020-06-17_texte_80-2020_oekoressii_environmentalcriticality-report_.pdf

 

 

Sewage Sludge Directive revision workshop

A stakeholder workshop organised for the European Commission (20-21 April, online, over 270 participants) addressed the revision of the EU Sewage Sludge Directive (SSD) 86/278/EEC. The European Commission, DG Environment, explained that the objectives of this Directive, in the 1980’s, were to encourage the recycling of sewage sludge to agriculture and to ensure safety. The 2014 evaluation of the SSD here concluded that it is effective in returning carbon to soil, but inadequate for promoting the Circular Economy, or for controlling pollutants other than heavy metals, and that a number of Member States have today stricter rules. The 2019 evaluation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive concluded that better account should be taken of energy use and greenhouse emissions related to wastewater treatment, and that materials recovery and safe use should be promoted by the SSD. The revision of the SSD should also take into account the EU soil and pharmaceuticals strategies.

Workshop presentations included:

  • Alberto Pistocchi, European Commission JRC, modelling toxicity risks of sewage sludge to surface waters and soil and concentrations of micropollutants in soil, crops and humans;
  • Rachel Hurley, NIVA, microplastics in sewage sludge and in soils, and trnasfer to surface waters;
  • Aoife Kyne, Irish Water and Anders Finnson, Swedish Water Association, quality standards systems for sewage biosolids and actions to reduce pollutants at source;
  • Christian Kabbe, EasyMining, different routes for phosphorus recovery;
  • Bertrand Vallet, Eureau, valorisation of sewage biosolids beyond agriculture, such as greening of disused mines or ski slopes;
  • Dries Huyguens, JRC, direct and indirect greenhouse emissions from sewage treatment: energy use, NOx emissions, chemicals use, on-site renewable energy, displaced emissions from nutrient or materials recovery;
  • Jóannes Jørgen Gaard, consultant to the Denmark Environment Ministry, significance of NOx emissions in sewage treatment and opportunities for reducing these.

Workshop conclusions, after breakout sessions, suggested that safe reuse of sewage biosolids in agriculture and recovery of secondary raw materials remain Circular Economy priorities, conform to Green Deal objectives, with possibilities also for biosolids reuse in land reclamation, for which standards should be defined. A priority is reduction of contaminants at source. There is a high potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in wastewater treatment, with questions on how and where to define greenhouse emissions objectives.

Possible policy measures proposed include permitting of emissions to sewers of sectors such as car-washes or hair salons, tracking contaminants to source, chemicals and product policies to avoid pollution at source, minimum recovery requirements for phosphorus and for other materials, and water reuse.
European Commission Sewage Sludge Directive web page and evaluation web page.

  

 

Safe recycling of nutrients to animal feed

The EU Animal Feed Regulation 767/2009 (art. 6(1) and annex II $1 and $5) excludes materials derived from wastewaters or manures irrespective of treatment or processing. Interpretation of this could pose problems for several recycling routes. For example, if phosphoric acid is recovered from sewage sludge incineration ash, it could be considered that this should not be placed on the commodity chemicals market or only with traceability indicating “not to be used in production of animal feed”.

ESPP has consulted operators and identified three relevant recycling routes, and has proposed to the European Commission to address these appropriately in order to lift potential obstacles to the Circular Economy:

  • Phosphate chemicals recovered from ashes after incineration of sewage sludge or manure. Such chemicals can be used directly as animal feed (e.g. calcium phosphates) or sold as commodity chemicals (e.g. phosphoric acid). In that this is via ash, there should be no safety risk (incineration will eliminate pathogens).
  • Nitrogen chemicals from ammonium gas stripping of sewage, manure or digestates, placed on the market as commodity chemicals. Evidence may need to be gathered to prove that pathogens are not transferred through the gas stripping and chemical processing.
  • Algae or other biomass using wastewater or manure as growth medium: case specific safety assessment may be necessary.

ESPP’s letter is supported by a table detailing relevant processes, uses of recovered products, status of implementation and safety questions. Comments and input are welcome.
ESPP letter to the European Commission (DG SANTE), 7th May 2021, and supporting table: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory

 

  

 

European Parliament on Circular Economy

The European Parliament has voted a resolution on the new EU Circular Economy Action Plan. Parliament calls for binding EU targets to reduce material and consumption footprints and harmonised circularity indicators. Parliament calls for investigation of the sources, fate and effects of micro-plastics in wastewater treatment and for equipping new washing machines with microfibre filters. For the Key Product Value Chain “Food, Water and Nutrients”, Parliament calls for action to reduce food waste, separate collection of bio-waste, increased replacement of fossil materials with renewable bio-based materials, measures to close the agricultural nutrient loop, reduction of EU dependency on imported vegetable protein for animal feed and increased recycling of animal manure and other organic nutrients. Parliament calls for a circular approach in waste water treatment and “highlights that resources can be recovered from wastewater, ranging from cellulose via bioplastics to nutrients, energy and water”.
European Parliament, 10th February 2021, resolution P9_TA(2021)0040 on the New Circular Economy Action Plan https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2021-02-10_EN.html

 

 

 

 

Fertilising Products Regulations

 

Digestate and compost in the EU Fertilising Products Regulation

Some 280 participants took part in the EBA – ECN webinar on 28th April.

David Wilken, German Biogas Association, presented conclusions of the EBA – ECN European survey on perspectives for CE-marking of compost and biogas under the EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR), when it enters into implementation in July 2022. The survey received over 100 answers from 21 countries. A large majority of respondents considered that the future CE-mark will be relevant for composts and digestates, in particular as a route to obtaining End-of-Waste status and better marketability, although many do not expect it to bring higher sales revenue and most expect it to involve significant administrative burdens and costs (in particular for conformity assessment). Most respondents consider that digestate will need some process of upgrading to achieve FPR criteria (CMC5), e.g. composting of digestate, drying, liquid/solid separation. Manure is seen as a very relevant input material, as well as sewage sludge (which is however excluded from EU FPR composts and digestates), as well as a wide range of other materials.

Theodora Nikolakopoulou, DG GROW, addressed a range of questions concerning application of the FPR to composts and digestates : manures and animal-by products as inputs – do they have to be pasteurised upstream of composting/digestion?; multiplication of conformity assessments if one compost producer supplies several fertiliser producers; definition of “sludge”; additives used upstream of the digestion process (e.g. flocculation agents) – must be declared as a distinct CMC; demonstrating conformity to PAH limits – does not necessarily mean testing …
Digestate valorisation under the EU Fertilising Products Regulation, webinar, 28 April 2021 here. Links to slides and conference report.

 

 

ESPP proposals for “CMC-WW”

As indicated I ESPP eNews n°53, the European Commission has proposed a new Component Material Category for the EU Fertilising Products Regulation, “CMC-WW”, open to any by-product coming from a “production process” or from a gas processing / gas emissions control process” which offers “high purity” and does not contain specified contaminants. ESPP has input proposals suggesting that:

  • CMC-WW should be extended to “and derivates”, that is authorise use of such by-products as precursors for producing fertilising materials (not only use directly as such). E.g. by-product sulphuric acid used in phosphate fertiliser production, but not used itself in fertilisers.
  • Not require testing for a contaminant if there is no reason for it to be present
  • Replace the concept of “high purity” by safety requirements

ESPP submitted list of possible candidate materials for CMC-WW, collated from stakeholders, including: ammonium and sulphur compounds from gas cleaning, sulphur from oil refining, wax by-products, spent acids, ammonium salts from fire extinguisher refurbishment, mineral salts from waste incinerator ashes, by-products from drinking water production, PHBV from fatty acid fermentation, vivianite, nutrient residues from wood bioethanol production …
ESPP proposals to the European Commission on CMC-WW for by-products in the EU Fertilising Products Regulation www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory

 

 

France proposes “half waste” status for sewage sludge composts

The French Government seems to be proposing a new legal status for composts and digestates containing sewage biosolids, manure, biowaste, etc. fulfilling the AFNOR NFU 44 095 standard (that is recognition as a French ‘national’ fertiliser product). These organic fertilisers would have “Waste” (not “Product”) status, but could be placed on the market and would NOT be subject to a spreading plan (the producer is responsible “until they are used by the farmer”).

The proposed decree would establish three categories A1 (“Product”), A2 = all composts and digestates containing sewage sludge, manure, food waste, etc (“Waste”, but not subject to waste spreading plan) and B (“Waste”, subject to spreading plan).

The official Opinion of the French national agency for health, food, environment etc. (ANSES) states that “the concept of these three categories is not intuitive and their appropriation is not immediate and the whole decree has to be read to understand the distinction” (20 pages!).

It is unclear to ESPP whether this “half-waste” status (waste, but not subject to waste management plan) is conform to European regulation (Waste Framework Directive). Also, if the producer responsibility stops when the A2 materials are spread on a field, given that they are spread as a “waste”, presumably the legal responsibility is transferred to each farmer, which is unlikely to be welcome.

 

 

Manure and Animal By Products in “STRUBIAS”

After consultation of stakeholders and operators, ESPP has written to the European Commission (SANTE and GROW) proposing approaches to the currently outstanding question of use of manure or other Animal By Products (ABPs) in “STRUBIAS” materials under the EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR), that is struvite and precipitated phosphates, ash-derived materials, pyrolysis and biochars.

The technically-finalised “STRUBIAS” criteria authorise the use of certain ABPs (inc. manure) as inputs for the three STRUBIAS categories, but only if ABP End Point “has been determined”. In order to move this forward, ESPP proposes:

  • For ashes and ash-derived materials: ABP ash is already today widely used as fertiliser (e.g. poultry litter ash) so determining this ABP End Point should be a priority. In that the incineration combustion conditions defined in the STRUBIAS ash criteria are those recognised in the ABP Regulations as ensuring safety, this should be rapidly possible without requiring any data collection or risk assessment.
  • For precipitated phosphates: there appears to be only one installation recovering struvite or precipitated phosphates (of STRUBIAS quality) from manure or ABPs in Europe (NuTriSep Geltz, Germany). Most manure struvite projects recover from digestate, where the digestor can already ensure the ABP End Point. ESPP therefore proposes no further action for this STRUBIAS category at present.
  • For biochars: ESPP notes that the JRC report concluded that the pyrolysis conditions defined under STRUBIAS will ensure elimination of pathogens. ESPP requests that EFSA be mandated to define an ABP End Point for STRUBIAS biochars and pyrolysis materials.

ESPP letter to the European Commission on “Animal By Product End Points for EU Fertilising Products Regulation STRUBIAS materials”, 16th April 2021 www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory
STRUBIAS criteria, as published for the public consultation February 2021
https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12136-Pyrolysis-and-gasification-materials-in-EU-fertilising-products
https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12162-Thermal-oxidation-materials-and-derivates-in-EU-fertilising-products
https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12163-Precipitated-phosphate-salts-and-derivates-in-EU-fertilising-products

 

 

Industry

 

Florida: state of emergency for disused phosphogypsum pond

Up to 1.8 billion litres of polluted water are being released from a disused phosphate fertiliser factory’s 31 ha phosphogypsum pond, at Piney Point, near Tampa, Florida. The State Governor has declared a state of emergency and evacuated 300 households because the pond walls risk collapse, after starting to leak. The fertiliser factory was operated from 1966 to 1999. Media reports suggest that problems with the pond walls have been known for nearly 20 years. The water released from the pond contains phosphorus and nitrogen which will contribute to eutrophication of Tampa Bay and environmental NGOs have warned of risks of red tide algal blooms. The phosphogypsum in the pond also contains radioactive elements, but the Florida authorities say that levels in released water meet quality standards.
The Guardian UK, 4th April 2021, and other media online.

 

New phosphate production planned in Sweden

Two significant projects to “mine” phosphate from secondary resources in Sweden were presented at the Nordic Circular Materials Conference: 21-22 April 2021. In both cases, the projects will extract phosphate from apatite minerals (phosphate rock family) present in tailings of from iron ore mining, either from operating iron production sites or from stocked tailings from closed mines. The apatite is mainly rare earth element substituted fluorapatite, e.g. monazite, low in cadmium and arsenic, and the extraction of the rare earths with the phosphate will enable economic viability.

Ulrika Håkansson, LKAB, presented the company’s project treating ore tailings from iron mines in Kiruna and Malmberget. LKAB’s objective is to be operational by 2027, producing c. 50 000 tP/year (five times Sweden’s mineral P fertiliser consumption), as apatite concentrate, and c. 30% of EU rare earth needs.

Christer Lindqvist presented the Grängesberg Apatite Recovery Project, which aims to recover apatite from stocked tailings of the Grangesberg iron mine (John Matts dam), which was the world’s biggest iron ore producer in the nineteenth century. The following rare earth elements will be produced: Y, La, Ce, Pr, Nd, Tb, Eu. Production will be around 13 000 tP/y, with the aim of starting within 3-4 years. The stocked tailings will support around seven years production, and this may be extended with a project to re-open the iron ore mine
Slides from Nordic Circular Materials Conference
LKAB secondary P-mining project: www.ree-map.com
Grängesberg Exploration Holding AB https://grangesbergexploration.se/

 

 

Irish Water and Ostara to produce 14 t/day of struvite

Murphy Ireland and Ostara have announced construction of a new Ostara Pearl® struvite recovery installation, with WASSTRIP®, as part of the upgrade of Irish Water’s Ringsend waste water treatment plant to 2.4 million p.e. capacity and conversion to biological phosphorus removal. Struvite production should start in 2023. Ringsend treats around 40% of Ireland’s wastewater and discharges into the nutrient Sensitive Area, Lower Liffey Estuary and Dublin Bay.
“Ostara and Murphy Partner to deliver part of Ringsend Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade Project for Irish Water”, 28th April 2021 press release.

 

Benefits of struvite

An article by Ostara in World Fertilizer provides an accessible summary of different benefits of recycling phosphorus from sewage as struvite, as operational with 22 commercial Ostara reactors running worldwide. The paper outlines the Planetary Boundary challenge for phosphorus and summarises environmental footprint study data comparing recovered struvite to production of mineral phosphate fertiliser (“emergy” approach, see ESPP eNews 35). Agronomic benefits of struvite are also outlined. Because struvite is crop-available (soluble in weak organic acids) but it is not water soluble, there is no risk of burning germinating crops, lower osmotic stress on soil micro-organisms, and reduced risks of phosphorus run-off to surface waters. Trials have shown that a combination of struvite and mineral fertiliser can increase yield and crop quality in potatoes, above standard fertiliser practice.
“Greener Cycle”, R. Leatherwood & R. van Springelen, Ostara, World Fertilizer, March 2021 http://bit.ly/3vf9ZFG

 

CRU Phosphates Conference 2021

“Phosphates 2021”, the only annual global event for the phosphate mining, processing, phosphorus chemicals and phosphate fertiliser industries, brought together some 560 delegates, online, 23-25 March 2021. The online format increased attendance by +50% compared to previous physical conferences.
https://www.phosphates2021.com/

 

Global phosphate market outlook

Chris Lawson and Glen Kurokawa of CRU outlined current world market trends for phosphates. After falling from around 2012 to end 2019, prices have risen rapidly since 2020, and are back to their 2012 levels (but still less than half the peak prices reached in 2008-2009). This recent increase mirrors increases in agricultural crop prices, and is driven by high world phosphorus demand (including in China, despite a long-term trend to better P efficiency here), low stocks, Covid supply disruption and specific impacts of new import tariffs for the USA.

CRU consider however that the current price level will not be sustained because increases in production (e.g. in China) will bring prices down somewhat in the coming year.

Over the next five years, significant increases in capacity will come online, e.g. in Morocco. Nonetheless prices are expected to remain high over this period because of continuing global demand and increasing costs of raw materials, wages, and (in China) environmental restoration measures.

Over coming decades, the phosphate market is expected to be impacted by long-term trends including continuing growth in agricultural demand, and circular economy initiatives (especially in Europe) to develop recycled products.

 

New EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FRP)

Johanna Bernsel, European Commission DG GROW, explained that the new regulation is very ambitious, widening to cover many different products related to nutrient use in agriculture, including biostimulants which can improve fertiliser nutrient use efficiency. The regulation has Circular Economy objectives, opening the European market for both recycled nutrient materials and recycling technology providers. It will also bring new protection to EU consumers, because for the first time contaminant limits are introduced for CE fertilisers, including for cadmium.

It is important to note that when the new Regulation enters into implementation in June 2022, producers will no longer be able to market under the old regulation 2003/2003, but will have the choice of using the new regulation (CE-Mark) and/or selling under national fertiliser regulations, which will remain in force in each Member State (“Optional Harmonisation”).

Producers should refer to the Frequently Asked Questions and to the Labelling Guidance, both of which documents provide important clarifications on implementation of the new regulation.

In questions from conference participants, it was clarified that the new regulation will limit cadmium to 60 mgCd/kgP2O5 in all CE-Mark mineral phosphate fertilisers from June 2022, as well as limits on certain other heavy metals, and that producers have the option to label “Low Cadmium” when below 20. However, the Commission is mandated by the regulation to review the cadmium limit by 2026, and also to assess a possible uranium limit. Johanna Bernsel also underlined that possible action is also envisaged on contaminants in all fertilisers (organic and mineral, CE-Mark or national fertilisers) with a study underway (see ESPP eNews n°52.
European Commission FRP “Frequently Asked Questions” here
European Commission FRP labelling guidance document C(2021)726 (18/2/2021) and Annex here

 

 

Fertiliser market trends in Europe

Konstantin Golambek, Fertilizers Europe, presented latest conclusions from the federation’s annual analysis of European fertiliser markets and estimates for trends for the coming decade. Phosphorus consumption in mineral fertilisers has fallen by around half in Europe since the 1980’s and has been fairly stable since the late 2000’s. Fertilizers Europe estimates that P use in mineral fertilisers in Europe will fall very slightly, maybe c. 2%, over the next ten years, and N by maybe -5 to -6%. However, there are major regional differences in mineral P fertiliser use across Europe, partly related to differences in density of livestock production (and so manure availability and use).

Fertiliser use will be influenced by crop choice, by climate and by the global agri-food commodity market, by innovation in agriculture, by regulation and also in the long term by a move towards more plant-based diets and by the need for the EU to replace imported animal feedstuffs, such as soy. Farmers in Europe are under high pressure because of labour costs, food industry purchasing and regulation.

Fertilizers Europe sees as key to responding to these challenges: balancing all nutrients and use of both mineral and organic fertilisers, adapting to different regional contexts, increasing knowledge per hectare, Circular Economy and high-efficiency fertilisers. The aim is to improve Nutrient Use Efficiency and maintain soil fertility. Nutrient Management Plans in the Common Agricultural Policy will be critical for this.

 

How EU policies will influence phosphorus use

Chris Thornton, ESPP, summarised European policies and regulations which will significantly impact phosphorus use in Europe in coming years. The Green Deal Farm-to-Fork and Biodiversity Strategy target to reduce nutrient losses by 50% by 2030 should considerably impact use of mineral fertilisers, organic fertilisers and livestock manure. This is driven by the ongoing problem of eutrophication, likely to be accentuated by climate change, with phosphorus the main (non-morphological) cause of failure to achieve Water Framework Directive quality status requirements in surface waters. Farm-to-Fork also announces actions to promote a shift towards healthy and sustainable diets, with more plant-based foods and less red meat. However, these objectives require clear requirements on balanced nutrient management in the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and this is not yet defined. Other EU policies which significantly impact phosphorus use include the confirmed inclusion of both phosphate rock and P4 on the EU Critical Raw Materials List, the EFSA safe limit (ADI) for phosphorus in food (2019) and Circular Economy policies.
ESPP presentation slides here: https://www.slideshare.net/NutrientPlatform

 

 

EasyMining phosphorus recycling

Yariv Cohen, Sara Stiernström and Christian Kabbe presented the EasyMining (a subsidiary of Ragn-Sells) Ash2Phos process for recovering phosphorus in a purified form from sewage sludge incineration ash. The process uses acid then lime to extract phosphorus from ash and separate off the inert silica (as a sand, useable in the construction industry). The phosphorus is purified (>96% removal of impurities including heavy metals) to produce a precipitated calcium phosphorus (PCP) which is for example 80% soluble in NAC (conform to the new EU Fertilising Products Regulation requirement of >75%) or can be converted to di-calcium phosphate (DCP, 100% NAC soluble). Iron and aluminium can be recovered and recycled as coagulants for sewage treatment. Because of the purity of the recovered PCP, this is currently being trialled for use in animal feed (see ESPP eNews n°52). Easymining today have a 30 000 t-ash/year plant currently in the permitting process in Helsingborg, Sweden, a second 30 000 t-ash/y plant under planning near Berlin Germany and aim to have a third 300 000 t-ash/year capacity in Germany within a decade.
http://easymining.se/ and ESPP – DPP – NNP P-recovery Technology Catalogue
http://www.phosphorusplatform.eu/p-recovery-technology-inventory

 

Glatt PHOS4green

Jan Kirchhof, Glatt Ingenieurtechnik GmbH, presented this process which is based on suspension and granulation technologies. Ash is mixed with phosphoric or other acid or additives in a batch reactor, then buffered, then goes to a continuous spray granulation process. The processing is flexible, and other acids or solid or liquid raw materials can be used. At present, the process transfers all contaminants, inert materials such a silica, and iron and aluminium, present in the ash, into the final product. This means that at present only ashes which themselves fulfil fertiliser regulation requirements can be used. Glatt indicate that they are currently at the design phase for a process for heavy metal removal. A first full-scale plant is currently under commissioning in Haldensleben, Germany, with capacity to intake c. 30 000 t-ash per year and produce c. 60 000 t/y fertiliser.
https://phos4green.glatt.com/ and ESPP – DPP – NNP P-recovery Technology Catalogue
http://www.phosphorusplatform.eu/p-recovery-technology-inventory

 

Phosphoric acid from low-grade phosphate rock

Marc Sonveaux and Hadrien Leruth, Prayon, presented Prayon’s phosphoric acid production processes, including from low-grade phosphate rock and for phosphorus recycling. The Ecophos / Technophos process produces feed grade DCP (di calcium phosphate) from low-grade phosphate rock with high magnesium content (P content ≥ 5%P) using hydrochloric acid. After acid digestion of the rock, calcium carbonate is added to precipitate impurities (fluoride, silicates (>95% removal), clays, iron and aluminium (>90% removal) and heavy metals), generating 0.3 - 0.45 tDM residue cake per tonne of rock input (depending on the rock composition). After processing to DCP, fluoride is well below 2000 ppm, cadmium below detection limit, arsenic < 3 ppm, etc. The DCP is di-hydrate, offering high biodigestibility. A 5 t/day rock input pilot has been tested for up to 10 days continuous (24/24) operation in Varna, Bulgaria (see ESPP SCOPE Newsletter n°120). Prayon today has a portfolio of five conventional processes to produce phosphoric acid from phosphate rock using sulphuric acid, as well as the Ecophos/Technophos process, and the GetMoreP process. Currently technologies including H2SO4/HCl based and phosphoric acid based processes from Ecophos, aiming to recover phosphorus from sewage sludge incineration ash and other waste ashes, are at the pilot stage phase (see ESPP SCOPE Newsletter n°138)

Roy Movsowitz, Tenova Bateman Technologies, presented the TAT PPA  process to produce phosphoric acid from low-grade phosphate rock (as low as 10% P) using hydrochloric acid (excess from the ChlorAlkali process). Two solvent extraction circuits, both with several stages, are required to removal calcium, sulphate and some iron, then to remove further iron and heavy metals, followed by post-treatment to remove organics, reduce fluorine and finally concentrate the phosphoric acid. Further challenges are treatment of liquid effluent (after lime neutralisation) and solid waste. A 21 000 tP2O5/y output plant is being commissioned in India and a second of the same capacity is in the construction stage.

 

P4: outlook for a Critical Raw Material

Willem Schipper summarised uses and perspectives for P4 and its derivatives, which represent around 2% of world phosphate rock consumption (of which around half in the herbicide glyphosate). Although this is a relatively small quantity, many uses of P4 are critical and non-substitutable, including in lithium-ion batteries, fire safety, matches and pyrotechnics, catalysis, lubricants … as well as thermal phosphoric acid for electronics applications requiring very high purity. Today there are around forty P4 furnaces operating worldwide, mostly in China (maybe 30 plants, c. 70% of world production), Vietnam (8 plants, c. 10%), USA (1 plant, c. 10%) and Kazakhstan (1 Plant, c. 10%). Prices were stable in 2020, with no large new applications foreseen, and a significant part of China’s production of P4 still going to uses such as detergents or food phosphates where P4 derivatives can today be replaced by chemicals from purified “wet acid” route phosphoric acid. The market outlook is mixed, with on the one hand a new P4 production plant coming onstream shortly in Malaysia and expansions in capacity of “wet acid” purification also underway, but on the other hand growth in uses. For more information on P4 and P4 derivates, see ESPP SCOPE Newsletter n°136.

Willem Schipper also provided an overview of phosphorus recycling technologies and their development, underlining that regulation drives technology development (e.g. Germany and Switzerland P-recycling obligations). In particular, technologies are today available for phosphorus recovery from sewage sludge incineration ash and animal by-product ash, with a number of full-scale plants at the construction or commissioning stage. The successful processes will probably be those which are economic, accept different input materials and produce products adapted to market needs.

 

Recycled nutrients in Organic Farming

RELACS: recycled nutrients in Organic Farming

The final two RELACS webinars on potential and risks of use of recycled nutrient products in Organic Farming considered contaminants, recycling routes and Life Cycle Analysis (following on from the first three webinars already summarised in ESPP eNews n°53) and concluded with discussion of how use of recycled nutrients is considered in the EU Organic Farming Regulation and perspectives for using recycled nutrients as Organic Farming inputs in the future.

Environment and health

Robin Harder, SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences), presented possibilities of recycling nutrients from human faeces and urine and from municipal sewage. When excreta are collected separately at the source (to date only marginal in Europe), this can provide nutrients in a more concentrated form and with less contaminants than in municipal sewage, though pharmaceuticals and hormones are still potentially present. Technically, it should be possible to obtain clean and safe recycling fertilisers from both source-separated urine and faeces and from municipal sewage. In case of recovery from municipal sewage, the focus is often on phosphorus, whereas with recovery from source-separated excreta, a broader focus on more nutrient elements is more common.

Kristian Koefoed Brandt, University of Copenhagen, summarised knowledge on antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in organic waste streams and in soils. Farmland application of organic fertilizers typically leads to a transient increase in abundance and diversity of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). Metals such as copper and zinc may constitute persistent selection pressures for antibiotic resistance (co-selection) in some agricultural soils, whereas antibiotic residues tend to be quickly biodegraded or inactivated in soil (Song et al., 2017). Results from a recent Swedish agricultural field trial indicated that 40 years of sewage sludge application did not have any clear effects on ARGs most likely due to competitive exclusion of sludge-derived bacteria (Rutgersson et al., 2020).

Lukas Egle, Vienna Municipality, presented the City’s objective to recover phosphorus from ash from mono-incineration of sewage sludge, and maybe in the future, also animal by-products. The incineration route ensures elimination of organic contaminants and microplastics, and heavy metals are removed in the ash processing. In Austria, sewage contains around 1 kgP/person per year, and phosphorus in animal by-products is a further 0.5 – 0.6 kgP/person/year. If this were fully recovered, it would represent nearly half of Austria’s mineral phosphate fertiliser use.

Ludwig Hermann, Proman and ESPP President, summarised conclusions of LCA comparisons between mineral fertilisers and recycled nutrient products under the Phorwärts (see ESPP eNews n°28), Systemic and Lex4Bio projects. Greenhouse gas emissions from mineral phosphate fertiliser production are relatively limited, 1 – 1.5 kgCO2-eq./kgP2O5, compared to 9 -11 kgCO2-eq./kgN for mineral nitrogen fertilisers. Environmental impacts of most recycled P-fertilisers are lower than those of mineral P-fertilisers, particularly if heavy metals are removed. However, the lower impact is not guaranteed due to high chemicals consumption for some recovery processes or relevant heavy metal concentrations (Zn, Cu, Pb, Cr) compensating the advantage of lower cadmium concentrations. LCA analysis suggests that the most important environmental impacts are freshwater eutrophication (in the use phase), cadmium toxicity (depending on the source of rock used) and risk of accidental pollution from phosphogypsum waste stocks (generally around historic production sites, see article on Tampa, Florida, below). Difficulties are that various different LCA methodologies are not compatible, results depend very strongly on definition of boundaries and allocation of impacts to different outputs, non-coverage of accidental pollution risks in LCAs and need for probabilistic risk assessment for pollutants.

Perspectives for acceptance of recycled nutrients in Organic Farming

Bernhard Speiser, FiBL, outlined key points of the EU Organic Farming Regulation relevant to use of secondary nutrient materials. A material can only be used as an input (e.g. fertiliser) in Organic Farming if it is specifically listed in the Regulation annex. At present, a number of secondary nutrient materials are listed (with various specific conditions, in particular “not from factory farming”): manure, dejecta of insects and worms, composted/digested household biowaste, biogas digestate, mushroom culture waste, slaughterhouse wastes, alcohol industry stillage, mollusc waste, egg shells, industrial lime from sugar or salt production. The Regulation also fixes some general principles: input materials must be from plants, algae, animals, microbes or minerals (i.e. not chemically processed) unless such materials are not available in sufficient quantity or quality. Also (art. 5) mineral fertilisers must be “low solubility”.

Frank Oudshoorn, SEGES Denmark and member of EGTOP (the EU expert group on Organic Farming) explained that this group examines proposals to add additional input materials to the Regulation annex, when a dossier is submitted with support of a Member State. EGTOP examines whether the proposed material is needed for Organic Farming, safety, and assesses conformity to the overall principles of Organic Farming: natural or Organic origins of the material, low solubility, principle for fertilisers of feeding the soil not the plant. However, Member States may sometimes interpret differently. For example, Denmark has, in advance, accepted use in Organic Farming of ammonium sulphate recovered from digestate by combining stripped ammonia with stripped sulphur – because it was considered the production process was a “mechanical” concentration of digestate. The process has however not been used yet.

Anne-Kristin Løes, NORSØK (Norwegian Centre for Organic Agriculture), underlined the need for a scientific approach to defining terminology used in the Organic Farming Regulation, such as “natural”, “low solubility”, “physical processing”. This is explored in Løes and Adler, 2019 which discusses the dilemmas between “natural” and sustainability and recycling; between “low solubility” and clean, low contaminant products, between “non-chemical processing” and efficient use of natural resources. The concept of “natural” in Organic Farming is explored in Verhoog 2003 and 2007.

Jakob Magid, University of Copenhagen, summarised a study underway in Denmark on opinions of committed Organic consumers on the use of recycled materials as inputs to Organic production. This suggests that there are two types of committed Organic consumers, at present of similar proportions: those who see Organic products as “pure and clean” and find abhorrent recycling of wastes to Organic farming, and those who favour “sustainability” and consider recycling as an important path towards a more sustainable food system.

In discussions with webinar participants and from the presentations at the five webinars, the following possible conclusions were proposed and will be elaborated in a synthesis document:

  • Many contaminants have decreased in both sewage sludge and manure
  • Organic contaminants in sewage are not a significant risk, but do generate fear and uncertainty
  • Sustainability and recycling are core objectives of Organic Farming
  • Multi-criteria assessments of recycling options are needed, including sustainability aspects
  • Work is needed on defining terms used in the Organic Farming Regulation, such as “low solubility” or “processing.
  • In particular, a definition of “factory farming” is needed (the European Commission has started discussions on this).
  • The Organic Farming movement should have a voice on societal questions such as livestock production localisation, separative sewage collection

RELACS (Improving Inputs for Organic Farming), Horizon 2020 https://relacs-project.eu/

 

Research

Eutrophication significantly increases greenhouse emissions

A review of around 100 scientific publications concludes that eutrophication significantly increases greenhouse gas emissions from freshwaters (CO2, methane, N2O). An increase of 5 µg/l of chlorophyll-a in lakes and reservoirs worldwide would result in an increase of GHG emissions equivalent to >6% of fossil fuel CO2.

The current GHG emissions from freshwaters worldwide are estimated to be equivalent to >30% of global fossil fuel CO2 emissions (56% from freshwater CO2 release, 40% from methane, 4% from N2O).

Eutrophic shallow lakes are estimated to emit nearly 50% more methane than comparable non-eutrophic lakes. Eutrophication increases organic matter production in fresh waters, but it is unclear whether the resulting net CO2 uptake will compensate for increased methane production, because the organic matter produced is readily degradable. Increased nitrogen loading to surface waters can cause them to shift from being N2O sinks to net N2O emitters. Eutrophication also increases freshwater GHG emissions indirectly, for example, by shifting from vegetation dominated by macrophytes to algae, whereas macrophyte roots tend to reduce methane production by moving oxygen to sediments. Also, cyanobacteria readily produce methane even in the oxic water zone, both at day and at night.

The review also shows that climate change is expected to significantly increase freshwater GHG emissions and eutrophication (see also ESPP SCOPE Newsletter n°137 on climate change and eutrophication), with positive feedback loops. Increasing temperatures will increase release of nutrients from sediments (accelerated mineralisation), as will extreme climate events (remobilisation of sediments). Both will also lead to increased nutrient losses from land to freshwaters. Increased temperatures may also favour methane production in freshwaters, rather than methane consumption.

This review confirms that policy makers need to further reduce nutrient inputs to surface waters, both because climate change will increase eutrophication risks, and because freshwater eutrophication contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.
“The role of freshwater eutrophication in greenhouse gas emissions: A review”, Y. Li et al., Science of the Total Environment 768 (2021) 144582 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144582

 

 

Biochar pyrolysis removes antibiotic resistance genes

Pot trials in China using pakchoi (Brassica chinensis) suggest that pyrolysis at 400 – 450°C for 30 minutes reduces ARGs (antibiotic resistance genes) to levels comparable to those in control soil. The tests compared composted pig manure (“high temperature” composting for several weeks) from two different farms to control soil (collected from farmland) and to pyrolysed composted manures (biochar). Compost was added to the pots at 4% dw/dw, and the biochar at 1.2% (equivalent because biochar yield was c. 30% of compost input dw/dw). The pots to which compost was added showed much higher levels of ARGs and of MGEs (mobile genetic elements) on the day of application than the control and biochar pots, between which there was no significant different in number of ARGs. Levels of ARGs were still higher in the compost pots after 40 days. The authors conclude that pyrolysis to produce biochar mitigates ARGs in manure.

In a paper cited, H. Liao et al. compared impacts of two composting systems, large scale (c. 20 tonnes), on levels of ARGs in sewage sludge: hyperthermophilic composting (total time 25 days, of which 15 days > 70°C), conventional composting (total time 45 days, 5 days > 55°C). The hyperthermophilic composting showed significantly better reduction of ARGs and MGEs, and shorter half-lives, compared to conventional composting. Hyperthermophilic composting reduced resistance to different antibiotics by 60 – 85 %, whereas conventional composting reduced resistance by 30 – 40%.
“Turning pig manure into biochar can effectively mitigate antibiotic resistance genes as organic fertilizer”, X. Zhou et al., Science of the Total Environment 649 (2019) 902–908 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.08.368

 

 

Differing positions on sewage sludge use in agriculture

A paper based on literature and 17 stakeholder interviews concludes that attitudes to agricultural use of sewage sludge in Sweden (after treatment such as composting or anaerobic digestion) are highly polarised. Fear of contamination, in particular “unknown or unfamiliar” risks, and “feelings of disgust” are obstacles to acceptance, despite the benefits of recycling nutrients and organic matter. Stakeholders interviewed were 5 famers or farmers’ cooperatives, one food retailer, one NGO, sewage works operators, regulators and consultants. An identified need is better monitoring and risk assessment of emerging contaminants such as PFAS or microplastics. The study concludes that use of sewage sludge in agriculture brings important benefits but that the priority should be better understanding and control of risks.
“Resources and Risks: Perceptions on the Application of Sewage Sludge on Agricultural Land in Sweden, a Case Study”, N. Ekane et al., Front. Sustain. Food Syst. 5:647780, https://doi.org/10.3389/fsufs.2021.647780

 

 

Phosphate fertiliser value of dairy processing sludges

Dairy industry wastewater phosphate removal sludges, resulting from use of aluminium or calcium to precipitate phosphate to sludge, were compared to superphosphate for P-fertiliser effectiveness, on grassland in a field trial in Ireland on P-deficient soil. The P was applied on 12th April and grass was harvested on 24th May, 17th July, 26th September and 6th February of the following year. Differences in grass biomass yield were not significant compared to control, neither for the superphosphate nor for the dairy sludges. Differences in grass P concentration were not significant compared to control for any treatment in the second and third harvest, but were significantly higher with superphosphate in the first harvest, and significantly higher with both of the dairy sludges in the fourth harvest. The authors calculate that the fertiliser replacement value for the first harvest was 50% for the aluminium sludge and only 16% for the calcium sludge, but increasing to around 100% over time (one year, fourth harvest) for the aluminium sludge. They conclude that P fertiliser replacement value of dairy sludges varies significantly depending on the P-removal process and that appropriate information should be supplied to farmer to enable appropriate P management.
“Differing Phosphorus Crop Availability of Aluminium and Calcium Precipitated Dairy Processing Sludge Potential Recycled Alternatives to Mineral Phosphorus Fertiliser”, S. Ashekuzzaman, Fertiliser. Agronomy 2021, 11, 427 https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11030427

 

 

Stay informed

SCOPE newsletter: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/SCOPEnewsletter          eNews newsletter: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNewshome
If you do not already receive SCOPE and eNews (same emailing list), subscribe at www.phosphorusplatform.eu/subscribe
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/european-sustainable-phosphorus-platform/            Twitter: @phosphorusfacts         
Slideshare presentations: www.slideshare.net/NutrientPlatform

 

ESPP members

ESPP members logos 1 2021

 

Newsletter about nutrient stewardship - European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform (ESPP)

Please subscribe www.phosphorusplatform.eu/Subscribe 
Link to www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNews053
Download as PDF

Events
Nutrients, aquatic methane emissions and climate change: 22-27 June 2021
New dates for ESPC4: 20-22 June 2022
4th Phosphorus in Europe Research Meeting (PERM): 2 June 2021
P-efficiency in poultry farming: 22 April 2021
Nordic Circular Materials Conference: 21-22 April
Digestates in the new EU Fertilising Products Regulation: 28 April
AquaEnviro Wastewater Resource Recovery Conference 

Policy
ESPP webinar on waste-grown algae
End-of-Waste status for secondary materials from waste waters
EU integrated nutrient management action plan

EU Fertilising Products Regulation
STRUBIAS criteria finalised
Fertiliser additives and REACH
Possible new approach for by-products
Technical adjustments and clarifications
EBIC ECOFI position on Animal By-Products

Organic Farming
Public consultation on authorised inputs for Organic Farming
EU Action Plan for Organic farming and aquaculture
RELACS Organic Farming & recycled nutrients webinars
RELACS setting the scene
Organic contaminants and other risks
Digestates, composts, nutrient recycling

Research
Farmer survey on preferences for bio-based fertilisers
Why Phosphorus Use Efficiency in aquaculture needs to improve
Eutrophication drives lake CO2 emissions or uptake

ESPP members

 

 

Events

Nutrients, aquatic methane emissions and climate change: 22-27 June 2021

ASLO (Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography) Special Session (SS06) on Methane Accumulation in Oxic Aquatic Environments: Sources, Sinks and Subsequent Fluxes to The Atmosphere. Within the 2021 Aquatic Sciences Meeting (online, 22-27 June 2021). In partnership with the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) and ASLO, ESPP and SPA will follow-up with a webinar to exchange between science, water stakeholders and policy makers on implications of aquatic methane emissions for nutrient management. Proposals for input are welcome.
ASLO special session on methane in oxic aquatic environments: https://www.aslo.org/2021-virtual-meeting/session-list/
Contact Mina Bizic
To contribute to the ESPP- SPA- IGB webinar: contact

 

New dates for ESPC4: 20-22 June 2022

The 4th European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference (ESPC4) is postponed (because of Covid). New dates are 20-22 June 2022 in Vienna. PERM, the European Phosphorus Research Meeting will be held virtually 2nd June 2021, see below.
Updates: see www.phosphorusplatform.eu and https://phosphorusplatform.eu/espc4

 

4th Phosphorus in Europe Research Meeting (PERM): 2 June 2021

This meeting, co-organised by ESPP, Biorefine Cluster Europe and ETA Renewable Energies, will link science, industry, agriculture and policy makers. EU-funded projects on nutrient sustainability and phosphorus recycling (Horizon2020, Interreg, LIFE…) and national and company nutrient projects will present, enabling dialogue and synergies. PERM will address how to improve uptake of project recommendations by policy makers and users, through to market, and identify perspectives for research and policy, and implementation gaps.

In parallel to PERM, ESPP is updating our online ‘inventory’ of nutrient-related R&D projects here.

PERM4 – online – 2nd June 2021: event website: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/PERM4
Proposals are welcome for presentations of studies into what factors in nutrient R&D projects improve uptake of conclusions by policy makers, industry and users.
If you wish your project to be included in the programme and/or added to the inventory of projects, please contact

 

P-efficiency in poultry farming: 22 April 2021

A stakeholder webinar will present and discuss the results of the PeGaSus (ERA-NET) research project (Phosphorus efficiency in the chicken Gallus gallus and pig Sus scrofa) 22nd April 2021, 15h-17h CEST Topics will cover feeding strategies, animal physiology and genetics, soil agro-ecosystems, phosphorus re-use and recycling options, measures of farmers’ economic performance, legislative aspects on manure management, and governance & policy instruments.
Programme and registration: http://pegasus.fbn-dummerstorf.de/stakeholder_workshop.html  

 

Nordic Circular Materials Conference: 21-22 April

This two day virtual conference (270 Euros registration) includes a session on phosphorus, 22nd April, 13h – 14h30 CEST, with EasyMining, LKAB, RISE, Grängesberg apetite mining project, University of Boras, Technical University of Denmark DTU.
https://www.circularmaterialsconference.se/

 

Digestates in the new EU Fertilising Products Regulation: 28 April

Presentation of an evaluation by EBA (European Biogas Association) and ECN (European Compost Network) of the interest to place compost or digestate organic fertilisers on the market under the new EU Fertilising Products Regulation and discussion with the European Commission
“Digestate valorisation under the Eu Fertilising Products Regulation”, 28 April 201, 10h-12h CEST online  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1601772252033859597

 

AquaEnviro Wastewater Resource Recovery Conference: 13 May 2021

One day conference 13 May 2021 on resource recovery from wastewaters and biosolids, covering nutrient recovery, hydrogen and other materials: experience from pilot and full scale plants; market pull, user confidence and business models, regulatory framework, links to net zero carbon 2030 agenda for the UK wastewater industry.
“The Art of the Possible: Resource Recovery from Wastewater and Bioresources”, May 13th 2021 online  https://conferences.aquaenviro.co.uk/events/conferences/resource-recovery-from-wastewater/

 

 

Policy

 

ESPP webinar on waste-grown algae

The webinar organised by ESPP with EABA (European Algae Biomass Association, 22nd March 2021, brought together over 400 participants online (from 700 registrants, all of whom have access to meeting networking) including the European Commission (ENV, GROW, MARE, SANTE, RTD, EASME, JRC). Presentations identified and illustrated regulatory questions around valorisation of algae and plants grown using secondary resources in a range of sectors (municipal wastewater, green waste, eutrophication remediation, cement industry (CO2 capture), aquaculture, manure digestate, dairy processing ...) with active discussion in the chat. Questions raised included waste status of algae, contaminants and safety, use in animal feed or fish feed, use in Organic Farming, human food, biofuels … ESPP will now develop a summary of this webinar, including a list of regulatory questions and opportunities, and work on proposals to take these forward (see below a first action on End-of-Waste status for secondary materials from waste waters).
Event webpage: slides, Chat transcript: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/algae2021
Full recording of webinar can be seen on ESPP’s YouTube channel
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMid-39AIMT-3pzjoY58qiQ

 

End-of-Waste status for secondary materials from waste waters

The European Commission is currently defining a list of secondary material streams for “scoping of development of EU End-of-Waste and By-Product criteria”, as specified in the EU Circular Economy Action Plan (11th March 2020, ESPP eNews n°42). This Action Plan cites “Food, water and nutrients” as one of seven identified Key Product Value Chains. As an action from ESPP’s webinar on regulatory status of waste-grown algae (see above), ESPP is preparing with a number of companies and stakeholders, a joint letter requesting that specific recovered material streams from municipal wastewater (and biomass-derived wastewaters) should be considered for EU End-of-Waste status: algae and biomass grown in waste waters, fibres & polymers etc., nitrogen stripping, phosphate salts for industrial applications. The draft letter is available here and companies and organisations interested to co-sign are invited to contact ESPP.
Contact:

 

EU integrated nutrient management action plan

The European Commission has announced that it will prepare in 2021 an Integrated Nutrient Management Action Plan (INMAP), as announced in the Farm-to-Fork Strategy and in the new EU Circular Economy Action Plan. After wide consultation of our members and network of stakeholders, ESPP has prepared and submitted to the European Commission proposals for the objectives, content and implementation tools of such an Action Plan. ESPP’s input presents a proposed ambitious EU strategy on nutrients, across all relevant policy areas, and a comprehensive set of concrete policy actions and tools. ESPP is open for further comments and input on this document, in that the development of the EU INMAP Action Plan is expected in 2021 to  include consultations enabling to make further input.
ESPP input to INMAP 27/3/2021 www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory
EU Farm-to-Fork Strategy, COM(2020)381, 20th May 2020 here
EU new Circular Economy Action Plan, COM(2020)98, 11th March 2020 here

 

 

EU Fertilising Products Regulation

Good progress was noted on several dossiers at the EU Fertilisers Expert Group 18-19 March 2021. The meeting also received updates on the European Commission (DG Environment) study underway into contaminants and possible risks of organic-containing and of mineral fertilisers (see detail and call for data in ESPP eNews n°52), ECHA work underway towards restrictions on microplastics under REACH, and on the update of the EU Organic Farming regulation annexe listing fertilising materials authorised for use in Organic Farming. It was noted that the principle of inclusion of sewage-recovered struvite and calcined phosphates in Organic Farming was approved by the EU scientific committee (EGTOP) in 2016. ESPP requested that, as the STRUBIAS criteria are now finalised (subject to formal adoption and publication, see below), the Commission should now engage discussions to define the conditions and legal wording for inclusion of these two materials into the next update of the Organic Farming regulation annexes.
EU Fertilising Products Regulation 2019/1009 https://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/chemicals/specific-chemicals_en
EU Fertilisers Expert Group documents (CIRCAB): https://circabc.europa.eu/ui/group/36ec94c7-575b-44dc-a6e9-4ace02907f2f

 

STRUBIAS criteria finalised

This meeting technically validated the finalised texts of the “STRUBIAS” criteria to add struvite and phosphate salts, ash / ash derived materials and pyrolysis materials (inc. HTC, biochars) as component materials in the EU Fertilising Products Regulation. Except some minor tidying of legal wording, the criteria remain as published for the public consultation (see ESPP eNews n°51). Hopefully, the finalised criteria will now be published in coming months, in time for the entry into implementation of the new Fertilising Products Regulation itself in June 2022.
STRUBIAS criteria, as published for the public consultation February 2021)
https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12136-Pyrolysis-and-gasification-materials-in-EU-fertilising-products
https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12162-Thermal-oxidation-materials-and-derivates-in-EU-fertilising-products
https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12163-Precipitated-phosphate-salts-and-derivates-in-EU-fertilising-products

Fertiliser additives and REACH

Following the Joint Letter coordinated by ESPP and signed by a number of industry federations and companies (mineral fertilisers, organic fertilisers, biostimulants, see ESPP eNews n°51), the European Commission provided answers on several points in a proposed update to the “Frequently Asked Questions” document, which is published and regularly extended and updated on the Commission website, and which provides guidance on interpretation and implementation of the Regulation.

The proposed additional FAQs clarify that:

  • Additives used in fertilisers must be REACH registered for use “in” fertilising products (not “as”), coherent with Recital 26 of the Regulation. This is important, in that e.g. a granulation agent does not have as its function to be a fertilising product, but its safety for use in a fertilising product should be verified.
  • For recovered products, art. 2(7)(d) of REACH can be used (Registration is not necessary, but appropriate information must be available)
  • Detectable traces of unreacted agents or processing agents in final fertiliser products
  • Substances which evolve over time or react when in contact with soil.
  • Further clarifications concerning the definition of “precursors” of CMCs (chemicals which react together to produce a CMC)

European Commission “FAQ” for the Fertilising Products Regulation here (current version online = 21/12/2020).
Joint industry letter and European Commission reply here.

 

Possible new approach for by-products

The European Commission presented progress of work on criteria for use of by-products as component materials (CMC11) in CE-mark fertilising products.
It is now under consideration to specify not only a short, limitative list of certain by-products, with specific contaminant and other criteria for each one, but also to add a category “CMC-WW” which could cover any by-product coming from a “production process or gas processing / gas emissions control process” which is reach registered, relevant for trade, has agronomic value, offers “high purity” and does not contain specified contaminants (to be defined). Questions raised are: will this concern organic materials or only mineral chemical by-products? Will it concern by-products from waste treatment processes or waste recycling processes?
To date, only four categories of by-product were proposed for inclusion in the short list for CMC11, from: fossil fuel refining (possibly widened to some chemical industry by-products, such as ammonium from caprolactum …), refining of minerals, ores and metals (but phosphogypsum seems to be not included), some gas cleaning systems (but not from waste or manure treatment, see below), processing of biomass, water, food, drink, biorefineries, including from the pulp and paper industries.
“Technical proposals for by-products as component materials for EU Fertilising Products” (2nd report), European Commission JRC, 27th November 2020 here. Comments must be submitted via a member of the EU Fertilising Products Expert Group. ESPP is a member, so you can send comment to and we will forward them.
JRC proposals for CMC-WW see document “2021.03.18 CMC 11 CRITERIA_JRC STUDY PROGRESS.PDF” at the Fertilising Products Expert Group CIRCAB site https://circabc.europa.eu/ui/group/36ec94c7-575b-44dc-a6e9-4ace02907f2f

 

Technical adjustments and clarifications

The meeting also validated in principle a number of technical modifications to the Annexes of the EU Fertilising Products Regulation concerning traces of substances subject to limits for food and feed (limit values, labelling), clarifications concerning fertilising products which also have a plant protection effect, typologies of micronutrient fertilisers, contaminants in certain growing media, acceptance of natural, biodegradable and soluble polymers (e.g. in processing and handling additives), chelating agents, tolerance rules for labelling, fiberised plant materials, category 2 & 3 animal by products (including manures) in composts and digestates.
Draft document “Fertilising products - technical update”
https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12135-Technical-amendments-to-the-annexes-to-the-Fertilising-Products-Regulation

 

EBIC ECOFI position on Animal By-Products

The industry associations EBIC -biostimulants) and ECOFI (organic fertilisers) have published a detailed 30-page position paper on Animal By-Products (ABPs) in the EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR). The paper underlines that there is a long history of safe use for a range of Animal By-Products (many of which have significant nutrient content), for example in over 62 000 controls in Italy, only nine cases required further investigation for pathogens, and all nine were finally determined to be negative for contamination. EBIC and ECOFI raise six questions about the process for establishing the ABP End-Points necessary for their use in EU fertilising products in the FPR. The paper provides detailed information on the transformation, legal status, FPR relevance, risks and management for 20 different ABPs today used in fertilising products. The document reminds that art. 46(4) of the FPR obliges the European Commission to engage an assessment to establish whether certain ABPs already widely used in Europe in fertilising products can be included in FPR CE-mark fertilisers and questions why some materials in this list are not in the terms of reference of the mandate given to EFSA in May 2020 (2020-0088 here, see ESPP eNews n°50): meat and bone meal, hydrolysed proteins Cat3, processed manure, glycerine etc from biofuels, derived products from blood, hoofs and horns. EBIC and EFSA also question why existing End Points in the Animal By-Product Regulation 142/2011 seem to be opened to question, but not others. The question is also raised as to why the mandate to EFSA does not take into account that the FPR will ensure certain safety levels through the limits to contamination and pathogens fixed in the PFCs.
EBIC & ECOFI joint position “End points for animal by-products used in EU Fertilising Products should recognise the history of safe use of many common materials”, European Biostimulants Industry Council (EBIC) and the European Consortium of the Organic-Based Fertilizer Industry (ECOFI), March 2021 here.

 

 

Organic Farming

 

Public consultation on authorised inputs for Organic Farming

The European Commission has opened a public consultation (to 23 April 2021) on a proposed update to the annex of the EU Organic Farming Regulation 2018/848 which specifies which substances can be used in Organic Farming in Europe, in particular as fertilisers, soil conditioners, pesticides and disinfectants.

Iron(III) phosphate (ferric phosphate) and diammonium phosphate (only in traps) are authorised as pesticides and phosphoric acid for cleaning/disinfection.

Authorised P-containing secondary nutrient sources containing phosphorus include (subject generally to specific conditions or criteria): materials of plant origin, manures (“factory farming origin forbidden”), source-separated household organic waste, biogas digestate, some animal by-products, algae, sawdust and wood ash (“not chemically treated after felling”), soft ground rock phosphate (subject to EU Fertilising Products Regulation contaminant limits), aluminium-calcium phosphate, Thomas phosphate slag, mollusc waste and crustacean chitin (from sustainable fisheries or Organic aquaculture), certain anoxic organic-rich freshwater sediment, biochars from plant materials.

Authorised P-containing animal feeds include a number of phosphate chemicals “of mineral origin” and fishmeal/oils/etc from sustainable fisheries (with specific conditions).

Monocalcium phosphate is authorised in Organic bakery products (raising agent) and diammonium phosphate in Organic alcoholic beverages.

ESPP will input to the public consultation underlining that Organic farms often have negative phosphorus, potassium and sulphur balances, and that increasing use of recycled phosphorus materials is needed to maintain Organic Farming productivity and soil health and to achieve the Farm-to-Fork target of 25% Organic Farming in Europe. ESPP underlines also that Regulation 2018/848 art.5(c) specifies as a “general principle” of Organic Farming “the recycling of wastes and by-products of plant and animal origin as input in plant and livestock production”. ESPP will request that the positive EGTOP Opinion of 2/2/2016 on acceptance of struvite and calcined phosphates from municipal wastewater should be implemented, and that other recycled phosphate materials should be assessed for acceptance into Organic Farming.
Public consultation to 23 April 2021: “Organic farming - list of products & substances authorised in organic production (update)” here.

 

 

EU Action Plan for Organic farming and aquaculture

The European Commission has published an “Action Plan for the Development of Organic Production”, aiming to increase Organic production in the context of the Green Deal target of 25% of EU agricultural land by 2030 (compared to 8.5% in 2019, and an estimate of 15-18% by 2030 if no action is taken beyond current policies). Member States are asked to fix national targets to achieve together this EU total. The Action Plan has three axes (23 actions): promote Organic food and products ensure consumer trust (including public purchasing), conversion from conventional to Organic agriculture and improving the contribution of Organic Farming to sustainability, and an emphasis on supportive R&D. Action 16 includes developing animal feeds based on algae, aquaculture wastes and insects. Action 23 aims at more efficient use of resources and (alongside biodegradable and compostable plastics) will “promote … the reduction of nutrient release”. The Action Plan however fails to mention recycling (except one mention of plastics) and does not address how increased Organic production can be achieved without new sources of nutrient input, in particular – for sustainability objectives – recycled nutrients.
European Commission Communication “on an Action Plan for the Development of Organic Production”, 25th March 2021, COM(2021)141 - SWD(2021)65 here and annex

 

 

RELACS Organic Farming & recycled nutrients webinars

 

FiBL and RELACS are organising five 2-hour webinars to exchange between researchers and Organic farming stakeholders to gather knowledge on potential risks of use of recycled fertilisers.

To date, this webinar series has some 140 registrants (including nearly 20 speakers), with around 70 researchers and over 30 Organic Farming organisations and a range of other stakeholders.

Remaining webinars:

- How to recycle nutrients from human excreta, 12 April 2021, 14h – 16h Paris summer time (CEST)

- Socioeconomic aspects and final discussion , 22 April 2021, 10h – 12h Paris summer time (CEST)
To register, contact:

 

 

RELACS setting the scene

The first webinar (3 March 2021) set the scene. A survey of over 70 Organic farms by RELACS shows concern about contaminants, especially in composts and digestates, particularly from household wastes.

Marie Reimer, Hohenheim University summarised data on European Organic farm nutrient balances. The balance is often positive for nitrogen but negative for phosphorus and potassium, especially in specialist arable Organic farms (without livestock). Farms which rely largely on BNF (biological nitrogen fixation) have more negative P and K balances (see further information in ESPP eNews n°49).

Jakob Magid, Copenhagen University, presented field trials in Denmark (CRUCIAL study) over nearly twenty years, applying sewage sludge to levels equivalent to two centuries normal application. So far no unwanted effects (except nutrient loss) have been found on soil  and crops caused by recycling of societal wastes in accelerated amounts. Heavy metals in sewage sludge have fallen considerably over recent years. Copper and zinc need to be reduced in animal feeds, to reduce levels in manure. Also, a risk assessment concluded that the risk associated with agricultural use of Danish sewage sludge is comparable to that of animal slurry, once the EU limits for Zn and Cu addition to pig feed have been fully implemented, which should be the case from 2022.

Erik Smolders, KU Leuven, explained that copper and zinc, mainly from manures, and cadmium, mainly from mineral phosphate fertilisers, are the main concerns in agriculture. However, plant availability of metals is more important than loads, and this depends on soil type.

Discussion concluded that Organic farming needs to increase nutrient use efficiency in order to improve productivity and sustainability, and to increase nutrient inputs in some Organic systems such as arable and vegetables. Organic farmers in Denmark tend to consider that it would be preferable to use recycled nutrients from societal wastes, including in the longer term from municipal sewage, over using conventional manure. Questions were raised on whether easily soluble recycled fertilisers could be acceptable.

 

Organic contaminants and other risks

The second webinar (11 March 2021) discussed the scientific data on the risks of organic chemicals, microplastics and pathogens in manure and sewage sludge.

Stephen Smith, Imperial College London, explained that contaminants in sewage sludge have been considerably reduced over the last few decades. Most toxic chemicals are adsorbed in soil, so have low biological activity, and negligible crop uptake, so that use on cropland seems to not be a concern. Transfer to diet via livestock does however require attention but studies spiking cattle feed with sewage sludge showed very low and temporary, or non-detectable, transfer to milk (see ESPP Scope Newsletter n°126). There are over 23 000 chemicals registered under REACH in the EU, of over 100 000 on the chemicals inventory. Many enter secondary resource streams and can pose risks in recycling. Problematic chemicals today are brominated dioxins (resulting from brominated flame retardants), chlorinated alkanes (restricted under POP regulations, but still present in secondary resources) and PFAS/PFOS (perfluorinated chemicals, for which EU further restrictions are now being discussed). QSAR (modelling) analysis of new brominated flame retardants introduced to replace banned substances suggests that these will also prove problematic in the future. Overall, halogenated chemicals are problematic, and the solution is to stop producing and using these. Another problem is the illegal presence of restricted substances in imported articles.

Moritz Bigalke, University of Bern, presented current understanding on microplastics. Significant levels can be present in sewage sludge or composts. The main inputs to soils seem to generally be vehicle tire dust, sewage sludge, compost and agricultural films. While most studies show ecotoxicological impact only at high concentrations of microplastics, one study (Rodriguez-Seijo et al. 2017) suggest that microplastics may impact earthworms at environmentally relevant levels. Microplastics are mobile in soils, can modify soil properties and impact plants (see ESPP eNews n°38). A major difficulty is the absence of standard methods for analysing microplastics in soils and their impacts on soil organisms.

Annika Nordin, SLU (Swedish Agricultural University), presented pathogens in sewage sludge and manures. Treatments such as composting, anaerobic digestion or ammonia sanitisation reduce pathogens to low and safe levels, while storage or alkaline treatment are not efficient against helminth eggs (which are a big problem e.g. in Africa). The EU Sewage Sludge Directive today still allows spreading of untreated sewage sludge if ploughed in within 24 hours.

Discussion concluded that more research is needed into microplastics and into the fate and risk assessment of organic chemical contaminants in soil-plant systems. Input should perhaps be made to the European Commission to propose that the current revision of the Sewage Sludge Directive should ban the spreading of untreated sewage sludge.

 

Digestates, composts, nutrient recycling

The third RELACS webinar (17 March 2021) saw several presentations on recycled nutrient materials.

Kurt Möller, Hohenheim University, presented studies on composts and digestates, showing considerably preferable LCA for anaerobic digestion compared to composting, and also much lower nitrogen losses during processing, but a higher N loss risk for digestates after field application. The long-term fertiliser efficiency of P and K in organic fertilizers is nearly 100 %, but the long term N efficiency varies in a wide range, for compost it is only 20-40%, whereas it can be nearly 70 to 80% for digestates. Both, N losses during storage and after field applications, and low efficiencies in the field affect the stoichiometry of nutrients in organic manures, mainly the N/P- and the N/K-ratio. Therefore, the use of composts (e.g. from food waste) to provide N to crops can result in nutrient imbalances in the soil, leading over time to e.g. phosphorus accumulation. Any treatment approach should emphasize on reduction of any kind of nutrient losses.

Elke Bloem, Julius Kühn Institute and PROMISE (Baltic Bonus project), summarised a study looking at mesophilic anaerobic digesters treating over 40 different input materials including sewage sludge, pig, cattle and poultry manure and maize (as a reference). Eight antibiotics were measured in input materials and in digestate (sulfonamids, tetracyclines, fluoroquinolones). At least one antibiotic was detected in 70-90% of input manures and 100% of sewage samples, with similar detection levels in digestate. Anaerobic digestion reduced median antibiotic levels by around 50%, but high levels were still present e.g. in poultry manure digestates. For comparison, literature data suggests reduction levels of 30% - 100% in composting, very variable even for the same substance in different composting systems (depending on time, temperature, pH, aeration …). The PROMISE study also carried out ecotox tests using Sinapsis alba (white mustard), showing effect concentrations of the order of 1 000 x higher than worst case calculated soil  concentrations. However, the tests also showed that effects of several antibiotics are more than cumulative (synergistic) and should be considered. Also, some literature studies suggest that antibiotics may stimulate antibiotic resistant genes (AGRs) at significantly lower concentrations.

Anne-Kristin Løes, NORSØK, summarised studies on use of hydrolysed fish processing and seaweed processing wastes as fertilisers. Ground fish waste treated in formic acid (pH4) showed to be a very effective nitrogen and phosphorus fertiliser (hydrolysed proteins) in a field trial with rye grass, producing as much biomass as  the reference treatment with the same N dose supplied as poultry manure, but with a much more rapid growth response. In the trial, this material was also tested with fibre residue from processing of rockweed (seaweed), from the company ALGEA (Syngenta), rich in K, S, Mg. Both of these residues are currently generally incinerated. Fish processing residues from caught wild fish are currently authorised for use in Organic Farming, whereas this is not clear for fish residues from aquaculture (category 2 waste not accepted; fish excrements not accepted). For further information, see Ahuja et al. review on fish waste based fertilisers.

Erik Meers, Gent University, presented a number of projects working on different routes for processing digestates to generate fertiliser materials, as a solution to transfer excess nutrients from intensive livestock regions to regions needing nutrients for arable production.

Participants discussed manures from digestate, questioning that such processing may only necessary or economic (as opposed to local use of the digestate) in intensive and concentrated livestock production, which is against the principles of Organic Farming.

 

 

Research

 

Farmer survey on preferences for bio-based fertilisers

The Horizon2020 R&D project, Fertimanure (ESPP member, see ESPP eNews n°41 Innovative nutrient recovery from secondary sources: production of high-added value FERTilisers from animal MANURE) has opened a survey of fertiliser users (in Europe, Argentina, Chile). Forty-seven questions ask about farm type and size, soil sampling, farm fertiliser management plan, fertiliser application costs, readiness to switch to Organic Farming or to bio-based fertilisers, familiarity with regulations, qualities considered important for bio-based fertilisers, materials considered acceptable in bio-based fertilisers, etc.
Fertiliser user questionnaire: https://www.fertimanure.eu/en/news/consult/26

 

Why Phosphorus Use Efficiency in aquaculture needs to improve

An overview of global phosphorus flows in fish production (capture and aquaculture) shows that the net P flow has changed from positive + c. 0.5 MtP/y (more P in harvested fish, both captured and cultured) in the 1960’s – 1970’s to negative – c. 1 MtP/y (more P used in aquaculture than harvested). P in harvested fish is an order of magnitude larger than other P pathways from water to land (migratory fish, seabirds, deposition). P input to aquatic systems from aquaculture globally is estimated at c. 2 MtP/y (2016), rising rapidly since the 1990’s with the expansion of aquaculture. This compares to estimates of losses from croplands and manure of 4 - 5 MtP/y (not including losses related to land use change) and of total river P discharge to oceans of 4 – 22 MtP/y. ESPP note: these numbers are coherent with global phosphate rock mining of 17 – 24 MtP/y (ESPP Factsheet). The authors estimate that c. 0.3 MtP/y of mineral phosphate is used in aquaculture feed. The authors estimate that global average Phosphorus Use Efficiency (PUE) in aquaculture is c. 20%, higher for finfish than for crustaceans. China represents nearly 60% of global aquaculture P input. In China, upper values for PUE are 44% for finfish and 24% for crustaceans. PRE (Phosphorus Retention Efficiency), that is % of input P retained in fish biomass in feeding experiments, can be higher, e.g. 44% median PRE for carp, which represents c. 40% of world aquaculture production. The authors estimate that an increase of global aquaculture PUE to 48% would be necessary to achieve “net zero” flows in fish capture and production, which would be very demanding. The authors note that aquaculture shows net P use (input – harvest) / protein  of c. 0.3 g/g compared to 0.03 – 0.14 g/g calculated for crop-livestock systems.
Huang et al. 2021 “The shift of phosphorus transfers in global fisheries and aquaculture” https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-14242-7

 

 

Eutrophication drives lake CO2 emissions or uptake

Net influx and efflux of CO2 was calculated for 15 eutrophic, shallow lakes (< 7m) in Iowa, USA (mostly manmade lakes), for which long term water chemistry survey data was available 2000 to 2010. Additionally, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) was isotope tested, and dissolved organic matter (DOM was analysed. Without eutrophication, lakes are generally net sources of CO2 to the atmosphere (efflux). In this study of eutrophic lakes, five lakes showed net CO2 influx (sink) of c. -50 to -1800 mmolCO2/m2/day (average during the ice free season = c. 8 months), whereas ten showed net efflux (emission) of c. 320 – 11 800 mmolCO2/m2/day, showing values significantly higher than previously reported in literature. For the lake with the highest net efflux (Badger Lake, 0.17 km2) this represents around 21 000 tCO2/year (based on 8 months). The carbon analysis showed that in all fifteen lakes, the DIC was derived from degradation of lake carbon (e.g. from sediment), mineral dissolution and atmospheric uptake, and not from degradation of land runoff organic carbon. CO2 efflux from the lakes was correlated to total nitrogen and to watershed wetlands. Conclusions are that although algal blooms resulting from eutrophication can cause lakes to uptake CO2 from the atmosphere for periods of months, eutrophication can cause wide changes in CO2 influx or efflux, including in some cases high CO2 emissions. The large effluxes are hypothesised to possibly be related to photodegradation of nitrate and nitrite, related to high nitrogen inputs to the lakes.
Morales-Williams et al. 2021 “Eutrophication Drives Extreme Seasonal CO2 Flux in Lake Ecosystems” Ecosystems (2021) 24: 434–450
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-020-00527-2
 

ESPP members

ESPP members logos 1 2021

 

Newsletter about nutrient stewardship - European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform (ESPP)

Please subscribe www.phosphorusplatform.eu/Subscribe 
Link to www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNews052
Download as PDF

 

Events 
Nutrients, aquatic methane emissions and climate change 
Algae for nutrient removal and recycling: regulatory questions  
P-efficiency in poultry farming  
CRU Phosphates 2021: “the” phosphate industry event  
AquaEnviro Wastewater Resource Recovery Conference

Call for data 
Contaminants in mineral and organic fertilisers

ESPP member news 
ESPP new member: HTCycle AG 
EasyMining, Lantmännen & SLU to test recovered phosphate as animal feed

Industry news 
DSM and livestock nutrient sustainability  
New network of fertiliser regulatory experts

Baltic manure management recommendations  
SuMaNu (1) report on manure management  
SuMaNu (2) report on manure processing  
SuMaNu (3) report: impact gap for manure nutrient projects  
SuMaNu (4): draft policy recommendations

Research 
Climate change and Circular Economy 
Lakes as climate sinks and emitters  
Organic contaminants eliminated in sewage sludge biochar  
P-fertiliser effectiveness of organic residues

Stay informed 
ESPP relaunches social media

ESPP members

 

Events

Nutrients, aquatic methane emissions and climate change

Freshwater emissions of methane are of the same order as methane released by wetlands, and a significant contributor to climate change. Nutrient losses to surface waters and eutrophication will impact methane emissions. ESPP and the US Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance summarised recent knowledge in SCOPE Newsletter n° 135 (July 2020).

ASLO (Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography) is organising, as part of the 2021 Aquatic Sciences Meeting (online, 22-27 June 2021), a Special Session (SS06) on Methane Accumulation in Oxic Aquatic Environments: Sources, Sinks and Subsequent Fluxes to The Atmosphere.

Deadline for abstract submission is 12th March (05:59 GMT, 1600 characters)

In partnership with the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) and ASLO, ESPP and SPA will follow-up the ASLO session with a webinar to exchange between science, water stakeholders and policy makers on implications of aquatic methane emissions for nutrient management. Both the ASLO session and this webinar will be summarised, with an update on recent science, in a further SCOPE Newsletter special edition.
ASLO special session on methane in oxic aquatic environments: https://www.aslo.org/2021-virtual-meeting/session-list/ 
Contact Mina Bizic  
Abstract submission deadline 12 March 2021 (05:59 GMT) 
To contribute to the ESPP- SPA- IGB webinar: contact

 

Algae for nutrient removal and recycling: regulatory questions

ESPP is organising a webinar workshop, with participation of the European Commission (DGs ENVI, GROW MARE, JRC) on Monday 22nd March, 9h-13h (Paris time, CET). The webinar aims to identify regulatory questions impacting valorisation of algae grown in wastewaters, or “fed” with other waste streams (e.g. CO2 capture), or for materials left after extracting materials such as biofuels or cosmetics from algae. Algae can be valorised to fertilisers (recycling nutrients and organic carbon to soil), animal feed, bioenergy or to many other applications. Use of nutrients from algae grown using waste inputs raise specific questions under EU fertilisers and animal feed regulations, as well as contaminant and safety questions. 
Registration (free): https://algae2021.eventbrite.co.uk 
Event webpage, updated programme www.phosphorusplatform.eu/algae2021

 

P-efficiency in poultry farming

A stakeholder webinar will present and discuss the results of the PeGaSus (ERA-NET) research project (Phosphorus efficiency in the chicken Gallus gallus and pig Sus scrofa) 22nd April 2021, 15h-17h CEST Topics will cover feeding strategies, animal physiology and genetics, soil agro-ecosystems, phosphorus re-use and recycling options, measures of farmers’ economic performance, legislative aspects on manure management, and governance & policy instruments. 
Programme and registration: http://pegasus.fbn-dummerstorf.de/stakeholder_workshop.html

 

CRU Phosphates 2021: “the” phosphate industry event

Phosphates 2021 logoMembers of ESPP benefit from a 10% reduction for registration to “Phosphates 2021”, online 23-25 March 2021. This is the only major global event for the phosphate mining, processing, phosphorus chemicals and phosphate fertiliser industries, and brings together over 400 industry participants every year. This year’s Phosphates conference is online, with virtual exhibition and networking centre, interactive discussion groups, conference presentations with Q&A. Registration prices are considerably lower than usual.
https://events.crugroup.com/phosphates/register

 

AquaEnviro Wastewater Resource Recovery Conference

One day conference on resource recovery from wastewaters and biosolids: nutrient recovery, hydrogen and other materials: experience from pilot and full scale plants; market pull, user confidence and business models, regulatory framework, links to net zero carbon 2030 agenda for the UK wastewater industry. Abstract submission deadline: Friday 12th March (200 words). 
“The Art of the Possible: Resource Recovery from Wastewater and Bioresources”, May 13th 2020 online. 
Abstract submission deadline 12th March https://conferences.aquaenviro.co.uk/events/conferences/resource-recovery-from-wastewater/

  

Call for data

Contaminants in mineral and organic fertilisers

The European Commission (DG Environment) has contracted to Arcadis and Arcadia International a study into contaminants in fertilisers (organic and inorganic fertilisers, sold as fertilisers under EU or under national regulations). The declared objective is to identify contaminants, fertiliser additives or fertiliser components or their decomposition products, which pose possible risks for the environment, for crops, for consumers (via crops) or for farmers. ESPP participated in a stakeholder workshop online organised by Arcadis 4th March 2021 (ESPP circulated the invitation to members), with nearly one hundred participants from different concerned companies and sectors. DG ENVI suggested that the study underway could lead to modifications of the EU Fertilising Products Regulation and to “Restrictions” under REACH. A shortlist of substances (mainly contaminants) to be studied has been defined: pyrazoles, dioxins, PCBs, PFAS (perfluorinated alkyls), pharmaceuticals (e.g. diclofenac), cadmium, chromium, mercury, vanadium and fluoride. A preliminary risk scoping will be carried out on these substances by mid-2021, including defining fertilisers concerned, risks, possible risk management measures (e.g. restrictions / limit levels in fertilisers). If potential risks are identified, these will be submitted to ECHA (European Chemical Agency) for additional data collection, risk assessment and then public consultation before possible “Restrictions” under REACH. Companies and stakeholders having data, studies on any of the above listed contaminants in fertilisers are invited to transmit these to Arcadia before end March 2020 (data on levels of these contaminants in fertilisers or in recycled nutrient materials, risk assessments for these contaminants in fertilisers or in soil). 
Arcadia study contact

  

ESPP member news

ESPP new member: HTCycle AG

HTcycle logoBased in North-East of Germany, HTCycle AG uses biogenic waste as raw material to produce high quality end products, which are like active carbon and can be used for the 4th cleaning step in wastewater treatment plants, as well as ammonium sulphates and struvite for the agricultural sector.

HTCycle AG was established in 2009 and is part of the IPI group (International Power Invest AG), specialised in renewable energy solutions and environmental technologies. The patented HTCycle process is based on hydrothermal carbonisation technology and uses steam as the reaction medium at around 220°C, 24 bars for 3-5 hours. Focusing on sewage sludge with 25-30% dry matter content as raw material, the activated carbon produced from the sewage sludge can be used in the water cleaning process to remove micro plastic, hormones and pharmaceutical residues. Phosphorus can be leached from the HTCycle coal using sulphuric acid, to produce phosphoric acid. Ammonia stripped from offgases can be either reacted with the phosphorus to produce struvite and/or used to produce ammonium sulphate. The process thus complies with the German phosphorus recovery obligation (Sewage Sludge Ordinance of 2017). To date HTCycle AG has more than 10 years of experience operating pilot plants with 8.000 and 16.000 tons of capacity per year and is currently planning to build several full-scale 24/7 operating industrial-plants in Germany together with a European Infrastructure Fund. The first plant will be built in Wolgast, North East Germany, with a capacity of 16.000 tons per year of sewage sludge wet weight. HTCycle AG joins the ESPP because it aims to bring the economic and environmental benefits of hydrothermal carbonization, combined with efficient phosphorus recycling, to the attention of the general and professional public.
https://htcycle.ag/

 

EasyMining, Lantmännen & SLU to test recovered phosphate as animal feed

EasyMining (Ragn-Sells group), an ESPP member, the Swedish University of Agricultural Services (SLU) and Lantmännen Research Foundation (Swedish agricultural cooperative of 20 000 farmers) have launched a project to test calcium phosphate recovered from sewage sludge incineration ash as a phosphorus source in animal feed for poultry and pigs.

The PCP (precipitated calcium phosphate) is produced by the EasyMining Ash2Phos process from sewage sludge incineration ash (see ESPP P-recovery technology catalogue), 600 kg/day pilot operational in Helsingborg, two full scale plants in permitting. It offers high P content, the same P solubility as commercial MCP (mono calcium phosphate) today used in animal feed (90% in citric acid) and low fluorine. The planned trials, to run for two years, will assess the digestibility of the PCP, in order to enable optimal use in animal feed and to minimise losses to manure.

EasyMining underline the need to clarify EU regulation concerning use of products recovered from sewage sludge in animal feeds. ESPP has engaged discussions with the European Commission on this question.
“New project to test recovered phosphorus as feed phosphate” 15/2/2021 https://www.easymining.se/newsroom/articles-news/feed-project/

 

Industry news

DSM and livestock nutrient sustainability

Royal DSM has launched “Reducing emissions from livestock”, a sustainability platform addressing climate emissions and nutrient stewardship. DSM is a global science-based company in nutrition, health and sustainable living. DSM solutions for livestock include feed additives which improve nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) in poultry and in pigs, and so reducing N losses, improve phosphorus and amino acid digestibility, reduce methane emissions in ruminants and increase overall animal feed use efficiency. Ivo Lansbergen, President, DSM Animal Nutrition & Health: “Amidst global climate change, the need to reduce carbon emissions from animal livestock is increasingly important. It is not a question of whether we need to shift to a more sustainable business model, it is more a question of how fast and with what impact. We need to shift to a model where farmers are getting a fair price for the animal proteins produced, where people across the world have access to affordable proteins, and last but not least, where animal farming reduces its impact on the environment (emissions, water quality through manure measurement, bio-diversity) significantly”.
“Royal DSM N : DSM launches its sustainability platform ‘Reducing emissions from livestock' as part of We Make It Possible”, 21 January 2021 http://www.publicnow.com/view/572B40F4251CEEE2628E2D2033D1295A89DF2425

 

New network of fertiliser regulatory experts

The Fertiliser Consultants Network (FCN) www.fertcon.net is the first European network of regulatory consultancies for the fertiliser sector. The network can provide expertise across Europe as well as North Africa, South America, Russia and China. Members can provide consultancy on both national and European regulation including implementation of the new EU Fertilising Products Regulation 2019/1009 and of the new Regulation on Mutual Recognition 2019/515, biostimulants, fertiliser additives, organic and mineral fertilisers, Organic Farming. Founding members are Artemisa, Openagri, SILC Fertilizzanti, SUN Chemicals Services, Vox Gaia.
Fertiliser Consultants Network (FCN) www.fertcon.net

 

Baltic manure management recommendations

SuMaNu (1) report on manure management

The SuMaNu platform (Sustainable Nutrient and Manure Management for reduction of nutrient loss in the Baltic Sea Region) has published a report (by RISE) bringing together recommendations for manure management from seven Baltic manure projects (list below). These projects addressed different aspects of manure management, and this report aims to develop recommendations covering all aspects o sustainable manure use (nutrient utilisation, ammonia emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient runoff and leaching, manure nutrient recycling, odours, pathogens and contaminants) over the whole livestock production chain (feed, animal housing, manure storage, manure application and manure processing). Costs of manure management, economic and regulatory instruments are discussed. The report concludes that baseline obligatory standards for manure handling and use should be tightened, information of farmers should be increased and economic incentives implemented to help finance sustainable technologies and practices. 
Project recommendations summarised in this report: Manure Standards, Baltic Slurry Acidification, GreenAgri, BONUS PROMISE, Baltic Manure, Baltic Deal, and Baltic Compass. “Technologies and management practices for sustainable manure use in the Baltic Sea Region”, E. Sindhöj et al., RISE Report 2020:77, SuMaNu http://ri.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1476430/FULLTEXT01.pdf

 

SuMaNu (2) report on manure processing

A second report from SuMaNu summarises different manure processing technologies and the resulting recycled nutrient fertiliser products. Regional manure nutrient misbalances in Finland, Sweden, Germany and Poland are assessed. Technologies summarised are: mechanical separation, slurry acidification, compositing, anaerobic digestion, thermal drying, pelletising, pyrolysis, HTC, combustion, gasification, ammonia stripping, membrane separation, struvite precipitation and vacuum evaporation. Fate of contaminants and pathogens are discussed. The report concludes that concentration of livestock production in certain regions generates nutrient surpluses: processing and recycling can enable transport of nutrients to crop-growing regions where they are needed, but manure processing is economically challenging. Incentives are needed to support the high investment costs for processing and to develop markets for recycled nutrient products. These often differ from conventional mineral fertilisers and services to facilitate transfer to their use should be supported. 
“Manure processing as a pathway to enhanced nutrient recycling”, S. Luostarinen et al., 2020, SuMaNu https://jukuri.luke.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/546254/luke_luobio_62_2020.pdf

 

SuMaNu (3) report: impact gap for manure nutrient projects

A third report from SuMaNu analyses pitfalls between envisaged and realised impacts of manure nutrient projects, that is whether project recommendations were taken up by policy makers or implemented by farmers. The projects analysed are the Baltic manure projects listed in (1) above. The only project recommendation to achieve high policy maker and farmer uptake was the Baltic COMPASS recommendation to develop manure phosphorus management information, such as P-norms and standard P-indices for manures. Slurry acidification achieved medium policy integration and manure-based biogas production achieved medium policy integration and user uptake. Conclusions are that projects should explicitly define recommendations and make efforts to make these clear and accessible, and that project activities should correspond to objectives. Recommendations are more likely to be implemented if they are well communicated, in line with farmers’ needs, and if representatives of policy makers and farmers are involved in the project. 
“Typical pitfalls leading to gaps between envisaged and realised impacts of manure and nutrient related projects - a gap analysis”, H. Lyngsø Foged et al., Organe Institute, June 2020, SuMaNu https://www.organe.dk/docs/SuMaNu_Report_2-3_Gap_analysis_Organe_Report.pdf

 

SuMaNu (4): draft policy recommendations

SuMaNu has also published six draft policy recommendation sheets, each 2-3 pages. These cover

- Fertilisation planning: in particular recommending obligatory farm gate nutrient balancing for N and P (comparison on nutrient inputs to offtakes, enabling calculation of nutrient efficiency)

- Fertilisation planning measures: development of Baltic region P fertiliser norms, a soil P-index model and tools for manure fertilisation planning, based on manure standards

- Handling and storage of manure: definition of BAT (Best Available Technologies) to reduce ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions, minimum manure storage capacities, spreading in Spring and Summer, application rates based on manure standards

- Regional nutrient reallocation: strategy and measures to support production and use of recycled nutrients from manure, with biofuel production / renewable transport

- Safe manure recycling: reduction of trace elements and pharmaceuticals in feed (then found in manure), improving hygiene of manure processing (avoid recontamination), avoid mixing manure and sewage sludge in processing

- Knowledge transfer between research, regulators and farmers, including via agricultural and environmental advisory services
SuMaNu draft policy recommendations: https://balticsumanu.eu/national-stakeholders-have-their-say-regarding-sumanu-policy-recommendations/

 

Research

Climate change and Circular Economy

A report from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation (EMF) and Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) concludes that moving to circularity for steel, aluminium, plastics, cement and food could reduce by nearly half these sectors’ climate emissions, so reducing total world greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by around 20%. Agriculture and food are estimated to contribute 17% of EU GHG. Over 20% of food is wasted in the EU. Combined with methane emissions from waste, global food waste is estimated to contribute 8% of anthropogenic GHG. EMF suggest that circularity in the agri-food system, including “regenerative agriculture” (~36%), reducing food waste (~12%) and recycling food waste back to soil (~2%) could reduce agri-food system GHG by nearly 50%, but most of this suggested reduction depends on “regenerative agriculture” (defined as “crop and livestock production approaches that enhance the health of the surrounding natural ecosystem”).

EMF states that policies needed include a reform of the CAP (EU Common Agricultural Policy), active policies to reduce food waste, separate collection of biowaste (as required by the Waste Framework Directive by 2024) and creating markets for composts and digestates. EMF also notes the need for fiscal reforms to support circularity, including for nutrients.
“A low-carbon and circular industry for Europe”, Ellen Macarthur Foundation and Institute for European Environmental Policy, 2021 https://think2030.eu/publications/a-low-carbon-and-circular-industry-for-europe/ 
“Completing the picture. How the circular economy tackles climate change”, Ellen Macarthur Foundation, 2019 https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/our-work/activities/climate-change

  

Lakes as climate sinks and emitters

In a 20-minute webinar online here, in the US Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance “Science Now” series, Adam Heathcote presents recent work estimating annual carbon capture in freshwater lakes (see paper by Anderson et al. summarised p.16 of SCOPE Newsletter n° 137). Based on a newly collated data set, covering 500 lakes and reservoirs worldwide, in different biomes, they conclude that lakes are a significant global carbon sink, with increasing nutrient losses increasing carbon sequestration to sediments. However, lakes remain a net carbon emitter, with net carbon releases into the atmosphere around twice burial rates. The largest cause of carbon burial is soil erosion, which takes organic carbon to sediments. Also, increasing carbon sequestration in lakes is maybe 15 to 25 times lower (greenhouse equivalent) than possible expected increases in aquatic methane emissions related to eutrophication (see SCOPE Newsletter n°135). 
US Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNFDQTfeT7mGsMY_YOgMonA and Science Now “Nutrients Increase Global Freshwater Carbon Sink” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_IlFjiIfqE

  

Organic contaminants eliminated in sewage sludge biochar

Tests with sewage sludge show that pyrolysis at 400°C (2 hours) remove pharmaceuticals to below detection limits. Pyrolysis at 700°C (2 hours) also eliminated 99% of PVBs, PAHs and EDC/Hs*. The sewage sludge was from a 500 000 p.e. municipal sewage works in the Czech Republic operating chemical P-removal, after mesophilic anaerobic digestion, centrifuge dewatering and then dried in a paddle dryer (100°C, 3 hours). Pyrolysis was carried out in the laboratory on 100g samples of dried sludge, particle size 0.5 - 2 mm, in a quartz fixed-bed reactor, and was tested at 400°C, 500°C, 600°C, 700°C and 800°C in oxygen-free conditions (under helium). The sludge H/C-org ratio was 1.75 and this was reduced to H/C-org <0.7 in >= 500°C biochars, that is conform to the EU Fertilising Products Regulation (draft) STRUBIAS criteria.

Removal of PCBs may not be relevant in that total PCBs in the sewage sludge were < 300 ng/g: levels were reduced to < 30 ng/g in the biochars. Pyrolysis at >= 500°C reduced levels of PAH from 36 µg/g in the dried sludge to around 1 µg/g, that is significantly lower than the 6 µg/g limit proposed in the EU Fertilising Products Regulation (draft) STRUBIAS criteria. Only three EDC/Hs were found in the sludge: bisphenol A, oestradiol, triclosan. Of these, only bisphenol was detectable in any of the biochars, and was reduced from > 1 000 ng/g in the dried sludge to c. 10 ng/g event with >=  500°C pyrolysis. Nine of the twenty-seven pharmaceuticals tested were found in the dried sewage sludge (concentrations 0.1 - 50 ng/g) and all were non-detectable in all of the biochars.

The authors suggest that pyrolysis at >= 400°C for 2 hours is sufficient to ensure complete elimination of the studied pharmaceuticals from sewage sludge biochars. Based on fact that 700°C (2 hours) was sufficient to remove 99.8% of the other organic contaminants tested, the authors suggest the sewage sludge pyrolysis at temperatures higher than 600°C with sufficient residence time (> 30 min) should ensure efficient organic pollution removal. However, this is based on the limited number of different pharmaceuticals found in this sludge and on a limited number of other organic molecules. Also, the study did not assess whether the pyrolysis may have decomposed the pharmaceuticals or other organic contaminants into breakdown products, nor whether microplastics were eliminated. Therefore, further investigations into these questions are recommended. 
* PCB = polychlorinated biphenyl. PAH = polyaromatic hydrocarbon. EDC/H = endocrine disrupting chemical or hormone. 
“Effect of pyrolysis temperature on removal of organic pollutants present in anaerobically stabilized sewage sludge”, J. Mosko et al., Chemosphere 265 (2021) 129082 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2020.129082

 

P-fertiliser effectiveness of organic residues

The RAE (Relative Agronomic Efficiency) for phosphorus of nineteen organic secondary nutrient materials was tested in three independent pot trials (each pot with four replicates, total of 152 pots over three years) with barley, for approx. 12 weeks (to maturity and grain harvest) and compared to single superphosphate fertiliser (SSP). Soil used was sandy, low P (13 mg/kg OlsenP), with pH 5.5 or limed to 5.8 or 6.5. Other nutrients (N, K, Mg, Ca, Fe, Zn, Mn, Cu, B, Mo, S) were applied sufficiently. The organic materials tested were manures/slurries from cattle, pig and fur fox, pig slurry mixed with food industry wastes (raw, composted or digested), sewage sludges (from 3 sewage works using iron salts for P-removal to different extents), pyrolysed and HTC sewage sludges.

The RAE (Relative Agronomic Efficiency) was calculated as the amount of P in SSP needed to produce the same yield as for the organic residue, divided by the total P applied in the organic residue.

At low P application rates, pig slurry, cattle slurry and composted cattle manure showed RAE above 100% (up to 189%). These materials were tested at application rates of 40 mgP/kg soil, whereas the sewage sludge derived products were tested at 150 mgP/kg soil, this being the highest P application rate at which SSP was tested. The manures, applied at only 40 mgP/kg, gave barley yields of yields of 47 – 61 g barley grains per pot, compared to the yield of 76 g grain/pot for SSP at 150 mgP/kg soil (3-13 g/pot only for control with no P addition).

On the other hand, digestate of pig slurry + food and enzyme industry wastes tested at a P application rate of 150 mgP/kg soil showed a calculated RAE of only 35% (yield 49 g/pot).

The authors suggest that the RAEs higher than 100% for manures may be because organic molecules may block P adsorption sites in soil so that P remains better available for crops and indicate that this hypothesis is supported by unpublished results of soil incubation experiments testing pig and cattle manures.

All the sewage sludges and sludge pyrolysis/HTC materials showed low RAEs (when tested at 150 gP/kg). Calculated RAEs were 6 – 68% for the sewage sludges, with yields of 17 – 66 g/pot. Calculated RAEs were 1 – 6% for the sludge or manure pyrolysis/HTC materials, with yields of 5 – 17 g/pot at 150 gP/kg.

The authors identify that the combined iron and aluminium content of the organic materials, i.e. molar ratio (Fe+Al):P, is a very good predictor of RAE for organic residues, correlating negatively to barley grain yield in these pot trials. Calcium was not a good predictor, as were also not phosphorus solubility/extraction methods (formic acid, citric acid, NAC, water, NaHCO3). 
“Predicting relative agronomic efficiency of phosphorus-rich organic residues”, K. Ylivainio et al., Science of the Total Environment 773 (2021) 145618, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.145618

 

Stay informed

ESPP relaunches social media

After a period of dormancy due to organisation changes, ESPP is relaunching our social media channels: LinkedIn and Twitter. ESPP is now working for communications with ETA – Florence Renewable Energies, a company with over 25 years’ experience promoting green innovation, especially for events, platforms and industry associations in the bioenergy sector.

Subscribe ESPP’s social media channels LinkedIn and Twitter to get up-to-date news on nutrients.

Link us on your own channels. Send us information to disseminate.

  

ESPP members

ESPP members logos 1 2021

Newsletter about nutrient stewardship - European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform (ESPP)

Please subscribe www.phosphorusplatform.eu/Subscribe 
Link to www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNews051
Download as PDF

Events 
Postponement ESPC4 and PERM to 2022 
CRU Phosphates 2021: “the” phosphate industry event 
Webinar series: recycled nutrients in Organic Agriculture 
EIP-Agri “Healthy Soils” event

EU policy 
Call for input: manure and animal by-products in EU fertilisers 
Call for input: recycling nutrients into animal feeds 
EU policy for algae 
Recycled nutrients in Organic Farming 
EU consultation on Soil Strategy 
Nutrient stewardship and farmers 
EU consultation: Zero Pollution Ambition 
EU consultation: industrial and agricultural emissions 
Public and specialist consultations: Sewage Sludge Use in Farming

Phosphogypsum 
IFA aiming for 100% use of phosphogypsum 
Prayon: near 100% phosphogypsum recycling 
Phosagro: phosphogypsum valorisation in road building 

EU Fertilising Products Regulation 
Public consultation on STRUBIAS (Fertilising Products Regulation) 
Technical adjustments of the EU Fertilising Products Regulation 
Industry joint letter on additives and REACH 

Research 
Phos4You videos on P-recovery 
Science reviews on algae for wastewater treatment 
Sustainable diets are good for health  
Crab shell waste tested for P-removal from sewage effluent 
Calcined fish bones as fertiliser 
Possible significance of phosphine in global P cycles 
Study suggests healthier diets increases dietary P intake 
Organic Farming can only feed the world with food system changes 
Calcium phosphate citrate nanoparticles effective in targeting cancer tumours 
How not to do Life Cycle Analysis  
Stricter nutrient thresholds needed for rivers 
Urban nitrogen budgets overview 

ESPP members


Events

Postponement ESPC4 and PERM to 2022

Given the ongoing international corona virus situation, it is decided to postpone ESPC4 and PERM (4th European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference and European Phosphorus Research Meeting) to 2022, Vienna, as a physical conference (previous planned dates, now cancelled, Vienna 31st May – 2nd June 2021). New 2020 dates will be announced shortly, in Vienna, probably June 2020
https://www.phosphorusplatform.eu/espc4

CRU Phosphates 2021: “the” phosphate industry event

Phosphates 2021 logo Members of ESPP benefit from a 10% reduction for registration to “Phosphates 2021”, online 23-25 March 2021. This is the only major global event for the phosphate mining, processing, phosphorus chemicals and phosphate fertiliser industries, and brings together over 400 industry participants every year. This year’s Phosphates conference is online, with virtual exhibition and networking centre, interactive discussion groups, conference presentations with Q&A. Registration prices are considerably lower than usual. 
https://events.crugroup.com/phosphates/register


Webinar series: recycled nutrients in Organic Agriculture

FiBL and RELACS are organising five 2-hour webinars to exchange between researchers and Organic Farming stakeholders to gather knowledge on potential risks of use of recycled fertilisers, e.g. organic contaminants, pathogens and microplastics.

Introduction – 3 March 2021, 14h-16h Paris time (CET) 
Organic contaminants and other risks, - 11 March 2021, 10h -12h  Paris time (CET)
How to recycle nutrients from household wastes and the food industry, 17 March 2021, 14h – 16h Paris time (CET) 
How to recycle nutrients from human excreta, 12 April 2021, 14h – 16h Paris summer time (CEST) 
Socioeconomic aspects and final discussion , 22 April 2021, 10h – 12h Paris summer time (CEST) 
To register, contact:


EIP-Agri “Healthy Soils” event

The call for participants is open to 14th February for the EU R&D EIP-AGRI seminar on healthy soils, 13-14 April 2021. The aim is to share knowledge, experience and innovation concerning on-farm actions to improve soil health, related to productivity, nutrient cycling, water, carbon sequestration and climate change. 
Call for expression of interest to 14th February 2021 here. 

EU policy

Call for input: manure and animal by-products in EU fertilisers

ESPP has discussed with the European Commission DG SANTE obstacles to nutrient recycling from animal by-products into EU fertilisers. To date, DG SANTE has only requested an EFSA Opinion (European Food Safety Agency) on those animal by-products which are already authorised for use as fertilisers (subject to certain constraints) under the Animal By-Product Regulation 142/2011. This mandate not given to EFSA until May 2020, whereas animal by-products were already an empty box in the EU Fertilising Products Regulation since March 2016 – see ESPP eNews n°50. DG SANTE indicated that EFSA has space to assess (for use in CE-Mark fertilisers) other recycled nutrient products derived from animal by-products, and suggested that industry submit dossiers to EFSA, via Member States. If your company produces a fertilising product from animal by-products, which you wish to be eligible for the CE Mark (under the EU Fertilising Products Regulation), please contact ESPP to discuss possibly preparing a dossier.

Call for input: recycling nutrients into animal feeds

The above meeting with EC DG SANTE also concluded that the current regulatory obstacles to recycling of secondary nutrients into animal feeds should be addressed. The EU Animal Feed Regulation 767/2009 (art. 6(1) and Annex III $1 and $5) currently excludes materials derived from manure “irrespective of any form of treatment” or from municipal or industrial wastewater “irrespective of any further processing”. This means that recovering commodity chemicals (e.g. phosphoric acid) from such secondary nutrients is problematic, in that it could be considered that these should only be sold subject to traceability and labelling “not to be used in animal feeds”. It was agreed that ESPP should collate short dossiers from companies operating such recovery processes, summarising possible secondary nutrient inputs, final products, process, contaminants, safety and potential market. The European Commission will then consider possible approaches to this problem. Please contact ESPP if your company wishes to provide input to this.

EU policy for algae

ESPP made input to the public consultation (closed 18th January 2021) on development of an EU policy for the algae sector. ESPP underlined that the proposed Roadmap did not actively address actively address the important potential for recycling of secondary nutrients and CO2 to feed algae (Circular Economy), that is combining algal production with wastewater and/or offgas cleaning. Algae production is already used full scale to treat municipal wastewaters, in particular for nutrient removal, thus recycling secondary nutrients to feed the algal production and enabling nutrient recovery. Algae can also be used to treat other wastewaters, including digestate. ESPP underlined that use of secondary streams is the only sustainable way to supply the nutrients needed if algae are to be produced large-scale, e.g. for biofuels. ESPP’s consultation input requests actions to clarify the eligibility of waste-grown algae for use under EU fertilisers and animal feed regulations, subject to appropriate safety criteria, and to define safety standards for algae grown on waste streams. 
Public consultation “Blue bioeconomy - towards a strong and sustainable EU algae sector”, closed 18th January 2021, contributions consultable here.

Recycled nutrients in Organic Farming

ESPP has engaged with IFOAM Organics Europe and the EU project RELACS (Replacing Contentious Inputs in Organic Farming Systems, or Improving Inputs for Organic Farming, see ESPP eNews n°33 and n°40) to identify which recycled nutrient products could be acceptable or desirable as inputs to Organic Farming. The EU Organic Farming Regulation 2018/848 specifies as a principle “recycling of wastes and by-products of plant and animal origin as input in plant and livestock production”. The Organic Farming movement also has concerns about not using input materials which facilitate intensive farming, agronomic behaviour of recycled fertilisers, needs for different nutrients, chemicals used and LCA of recycling processes, possible contaminants. ESPP has submitted, for consideration by IFOAM and RELACS experts, twenty Fact Sheets, prepared by companies operating nutrient recycling processes, presenting product case studies different recycled nutrient products, including ash-recovered materials, struvites, biochars/pyrolysis, P, N, K, S and Fe materials.

EU consultation on Soil Strategy

A public consultation questionnaire is open on the future EU Soil Strategy to 28 April 2021. ESPP made input to the Roadmap for this consultation in December 2020. ESPP’s input to the current consultation will underline the importance of nutrients and of organic carbon for soil quality and fertility, links to EU water, sewage sludge and Farm-to-Fork policies, the value of recycling of nutrients and organic carbon, and the need to reduce contaminants in secondary nutrient sources (e.g. PFAS, persistent plastics additives, veterinary pharmaceuticals). 
EU public consultation questionnaire “Healthy soils – new EU soil strategy”
https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12634-New-EU-Soil-Strategy-healthy-soil-for-a-healthy-life

Nutrient stewardship and farmers

ESPP President, Ludwig Hermann, presented European phosphorus flows, phosphorus recovery possibilities and the SYSTEMIC project at a conference on “Sustainable Nutrient Supply” organised by the Government of the Austrian Federal State (Bundesland) Upper Austria, 9th December 2020, with around 100 farmers and agricultural stakeholders. The presentation addressed the overuse of nitrogen and phosphorus resources, planetary boundaries and EU water quality targets in the context of the European Green Deal and the Farm-to-Fork Strategy. The new EU Fertilising Products Regulation was summarised, and an overview of approaches and techniques for P-recovery and recycling was presented, with success stories from different countries. The presentation will be summarised in an article to be published in April 2021 in the journal “Der Pflanzenarzt”, circulated to 2 500 farmers and agricultural advisors. 
Conference recording: https://blickinsland.at/boden-wasser-schutz-tagung-2020/ (in German)

EU consultation : Zero Pollution Ambition

Open to 10 February 2021. See ESPP eNews n°50
“EU Action Plan Towards a Zero Pollution Ambition for air, water and soil” HERE

EU consultation: industrial and agricultural emissions

Open to 23rd March 2021. See ESPP eNews n°50 
Public consultation “IED-EPRTR-Revision-OPC-2020” https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12583-Industrial-pollution-revision-of-the-European-Pollutant-Release-and-Transfer-Register-/public-consultation

Public and specialist consultations: Sewage Sludge Use in Farming

The public consultation on the Sewage Sludge Directive is open to 5 March 2021. Key questions concern contaminants and nutrient and organic carbon recycling. See ESPP eNews n°50

Additionally, a targeted stakeholder consultation has been mandated to Trinomics, and information is being collected via specific questionnaires, from wastewater and sludge processing stakeholders, agricultural and consumer associations, academics and experts, NGOs. If you wish to input to this specialist consultation, you should contact Trinomics by email here
Public consultation on the Sewage Sludge Directive HERE 

Phosphogypsum

IFA aiming for 100% use of phosphogypsum

The International Fertilizer Association (IFA) second phosphogypsum report outlines how to achieve the objective of 100% safe and sustainable use of phosphogypsum (PG), a major by-product of phosphoric acid production from phosphate rock, which in the past has often been stacked as a waste (PG is mainly calcium sulphate, resulting from the reaction of sulphuric acid with phosphate rock). The report outlines quality protocols and regulatory trends for PG use, and presents innovative case studies and country cases. Uses, depending on PG properties, can include agriculture, road building and cement production. PG provides sulphur and calcium to soils and the report presents examples of trials carried out in partnership with science and regulators in Canada (poplar, willow, squash, potato), Russia (rice, soybean, corn, wheat, flax), Kazakhstan (cotton), Morocco (rape, barley, maize). The case of Brazil is presented, where some 10 million tonnes / year of PG are today produced. Agricultural use in the Cerrado region improves the acid soil and provides sulphur, need by soybeans. Brazil now uses all PG currently produced and has started ‘mining’ historic waste stacks, with the objective of depleting these in the coming 7 years or so, enabling return to farming of the land currently used for the stacks. 
“Phosphogypsum Leadership Innovation Partnership”, IFA, 2020. HERE.

Prayon: near 100% phosphogypsum recycling

Prayon, Engis, Belgium, is presented as a case study in the IFA document (above), as the company today recycles almost 100% of its nearly 800 000 t/y of phosphogypsum (PG) production to agriculture (8%) and construction products (production of stucco plaster by Kauf, 92%). This has been enabled by a reengineering of the production process and new purification technologies over recent decades, to generate a clean, quality PG, whilst at the same time increases P recovery rates from phosphate rock, improving phosphogypsum filtration and drying. The PG used in agriculture brings calcium and sulphur, but also retains water. This water retention property has also been shown to enable biodiversity improvement (anthrosol species). 
“Phosphogypsum Leadership Innovation Partnership”, IFA, 2020.

Phosagro: phosphogypsum valorisation in road building

The Russia Federal Road Agency has approved hemi-hydrate phosphogypsum (HHPG) as a roadbed material for all classes of roads. This follows R&D led by Phosagro, using both HHPG. Tests show that the pressure on soils is nearly three times lower using HHPG than with conventional granulates, because the HHPG forms a high-strength lightweight slab, spreading pressure and so reducing deformations of road surface materials. The HHPG offers high tensile strength and elasticity, performs well in marshy terrain and is resistant to deformation when frozen. Use of sand and granulates can be reduced by 45 – 75%, so reducing environmental damage from quarrying, and enabling significant cost savings. To date, some 180 000 m2 of road have been build using HHPG, with up to 11 years of road life already. 
“Phosphogypsum Leadership Innovation Partnership”, IFA, 2020.

EU Fertilising Products Regulation

Public consultation on STRUBIAS (Fertilising Products Regulation)

The final EU public consultation on the “STRUBIAS” criteria for struvite and phosphate salts, ash / ash derived materials and biochars and pyrolysis materials is extended to 15th February 2021. It is ESPP’s understanding that this consultation is a formality, prior to official publication of the criteria. The criteria have been discussed at length in the JRC STRUBIAS group and in the EU Fertilising Products Expert Group (ESPP is a member of both). ESPP will input indicating that we support the proposed criteria, which are important for placing on the market of recycled fertilising products and for the roll-out of nutrient recycling technologies, and that the criteria proposed are the result of detailed consultation and dialogue. ESPP will underline the problem that animal by-products (including manures) cannot yet be included in STRUBIAS fertilisers, because DG SANTE has not yet engaged the process of defining Animal By-Product ‘End-Points’ for relevant STRUBIAS materials and has not yet submitted a mandate for this to EFSA. ESPP also regrets that sewage sludge biochars are excluded in the proposed STRUBIAS criteria and reminds of the JRC commitment to further research this question. 
https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12136-Pyrolysis-and-gasification-materials-in-EU-fertilising-products 
https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12162-Thermal-oxidation-materials-and-derivates-in-EU-fertilising-products 
https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12163-Precipitated-phosphate-salts-and-derivates-in-EU-fertilising-products

Technical adjustments of the EU Fertilising Products Regulation

A public consultation on technical modifications to the Annexes of the EU Fertilising Products Regulation is open to 2 March 2021. As for the STRUBIAS annexes above, this consultation is intended to be a formality, prior to official adoption. The modifications concern traces of substances subject to limits for food and feed (limit values, labelling), clarifications concerning fertilising products which also have a plant protection effect, typologies of micronutrient fertilisers, contaminants in certain growing media, acceptance of natural, biodegradable and soluble polymers (e.g. in processing and handling additives), chelating agents, tolerance rules for labelling, fiberised plant materials, category 2 & 3 animal by products (including manures) in composts and digestates. 
Public consultation open to 2 March 2021 “Fertilising products - technical update https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12135-Technical-amendments-to-the-annexes-to-the-Fertilising-Products-Regulation

Industry joint letter on additives and REACH

ESPP coordinated late 2020 a joint letter to the European Commission, DG GROW, expressing a number of questions on interpretation, and industry concerns about practicality of implementation of the new EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FRP). The points raised concern treatment of technical additives in CMCs (Component Material Categories), unreacted processing agents, chemical reactions between additives and CMC materials, and related REACH registration requirements. We have now received a detailed and documented reply from DG GROW. For a number of the points raised, the Commission concurs that questions exist and indicates that clarification will be included in Commission interpretation guidance (FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions document). The Commission’s answer also clarifies for some aspects what actions fertilising products manufacturers need to take with their supply chain to ensure that additives respect FRP-specific REACH requirements. 
European Commission “FAQ” for the Fertilising Products Regulation – note that this document is updated regularly - here
Joint industry letter and European Commission reply here.

Research

Phos4You videos on P-recovery

The EU Interreg project Phos4You has published several short videos offering overviews of routes for phosphorus recovery from sewage recovery. An ‘Overview’ (1’40) summarises different routes via sludge incineration or from sewage sludge, adapted to both smaller rural or larger urban wastewater treatment plants. Recovery via sludge incineration is summarised for the EuPhoRe process (1’11), where phosphorus is retained in the sludge ash used as fertiliser, tested by Emschergenossenschaft at Dinslaken, Germany, or other processes (presented by Innovatherm, 1’18) where the phosphorus is recovered as e.g. phosphoric acid. Trials of P-recovery via micro-algae or using fishery-waste adsorbents, appropriate for smaller sewage works, are presented (Glasgow Caledonian University, Veolia FiltraflowP, 1’34) 
Phos4You videos.

Science reviews on algae for wastewater treatment

A review of micro-algae in wastewater treatment from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, summarises data from nearly 40 studies. These are essentially laboratory work, with only two using reactors > 1 m3. Most of these studies show, in laboratory conditions, the ability of micro-algae systems to reduce phosphorus to low levels (e.g. < 0.5 mgP/l).  Technologies are discussed including algae freely suspended in water, biofilms and algae immobilised in beads. No economic data are provided. The paper concludes that “micro-algae systems incur little or no operational costs”, but this ignores maintenance costs for cell immobilisation, biofilms, membranes, or inputs of light or CO2. A second review from China, summarises different micro-algae strains used, technologies (including diagrams: open ponds, photo bio reactor (PBR), membrane PBR, microalgae film, multilayer bioreactors, …). 11 studies testing with real wastewater are identified, but only one of these provides a cost estimate (0.1 US$/m3 operating costs, Sheng 2017). 
“Integrating micro-algae into wastewater treatment: A review”, S. Mohsenpour et al., Science of the Total Environment 752 (2021) 142168, DOI
“Microalgae-based wastewater treatment for nutrients recovery: A review”, K. Li et al., Bioresource Technology 291 (2019) 121934, DOI. 

Sustainable diets are good for health

Two new studies confirm that diets which are good for the environment are also good for health.

Jarmul et al. reviewed literature on the environmental footprint of ‘sustainable’ diets, finding 18 studies (412 data points), covering 12 diet patterns, 7 health endpoints and 6 environmental endpoints. For nearly 90% of data points, sustainable diets showed positive health effects. Sustainable diets showed on average -25% lower greenhouse emissions (-70% lower for vegan diets), but water use (often) and land use (sometimes) were higher for sustainable diets, compared to baseline diets. Phosphorus use was generally estimated to be slightly lower (often reduction less than -10%) for sustainable diets, with nitrogen use showing somewhat larger reductions.

Scheelbeek et al. 2020 analysed real data from 557 722 participants for health outcomes and 5747 participants for environmental footprints from three UK cohort studies (EPIC, Biobank, NDNS), concluding that less than 0.1% adhere to all nine UK Eat Well Guide (EWG) recommendations, but 31% adhere to at least five of these recommendations. Health outcomes were recorded after 3 – 20 year follow-up, and showed 7% reduction in mortality for intermediate/high (compared to low) adherence to EWG recommendations. Environmental footprint was calculated from detailed food data from the participants, and showed that adherence to recommendations led to - 1.5 kg CO2eq/day and - 23 l water use/day. 
“Climate change mitigation through dietary change: a systematic review of empirical and modelling studies on the environmental footprints and health effects of ‘sustainable diets’ “, S. Jarmul et al. 2020 Environ. Res. Lett. 15 123014 DOI
“Health impacts and environmental footprints of diets that meet the Eatwell Guide recommendations: analyses of multiple UK studies”, P. Scheelbeek et al., BMJ Open 2020;10:e037554 DOI.

Crab shell waste tested for P-removal from sewage effluent

Within the Phos4You Project (INTERREG VB North-West Europe), Veolia (with the FILTRAFLOTM-P system) and the Environmental Research Institute (North Highland College, UHI, Scotland) are testing processed crab shell waste as a phosphorus adsorbent for tertiary phosphate removal from sewage effluent. Similar approaches have been used previously with other shell and shellfish wastes as P-adsorbents, often after thermal treatment (calcination and sanitisation), including oyster shells (SCOPE Newsletter n°84), mussel shells (SCOPE 89), snail shells (SCOPE 101) and brine-shrimp shells (SCOPE 119).

In this case, the crab shell/carapace (brown crab Cancer pagurus) is washed, dried, milled, then treated with potassium hydroxide to generate a stable, easy to handle, granular material (non-respirable), rich in chitosan and calcium carbonate (see Pap et al. 2020a and 2020b). The material was tested at the Scottish Water Horizons’ Development Centre at Bo’ness (operational WWTP), Scotland, operating a pilot-scale reactor (inflow 200 litres/hour, using between 15-20 kg of adsorbent material) for six weeks (four separate trials) as a tertiary treatment option (on secondary treated discharge). Quality assessment of the saturated adsorbent demonstrated c. 8% organic carbon content dw (total carbon c. 15% dw, part is inorganic) and a 1.1 – 1.3% P dw content, as well as other agronomically valuable components such as potassium (partly from the KOH), calcium, magnesium and chitin/chitosan, with very low heavy metal and organic pollutant levels and no target bacterial pathogens. Future work will involve pot (and/or field) plant growth trials to observe P uptake/availability (starting spring 2021). 

filtraflo
FILTRAFLOTM-P crab carapace-based P-adsorbent https://www.nweurope.eu/media/12161/phos4you_p-rich_biomass_en_nov2020.pdf 

Calcined fish bones as fertiliser

Trials show that fish bones calcined at 300°C – 900°C are an effective fertiliser. The fish bones were from Round Sardinella (Sardinella aurita) collected from women filleting fish in the port of Saint Louis, Senegal, and were manually separated from offal and heads, then washed and scraped to remove organic tissue. They were then calcined at 300°C, 600°C or 900°C. The lower temperature calcination material contained organic products from collagen and fatty acids, and poorly crystalline hydroxyapatite (HAP), whereas 600°C and 900°C materials showed negligible organics and more crystalline HAP/TCP (tri calcium phosphate).  The samples were tested for impact on germination and initial growth of Garden Cress (Lepidum sativum), all showing positive impacts in particular the 900°C material.  They were then tested for fertiliser effect in 3-week pot trials with maize (Zea mays), soil pH 6.7. All three samples showed fertiliser effect (compared to control – no comparison was made to commercial fertiliser) but surprisingly the more crystalline 900°C calcined material (with lower solubility) showed higher maize biomass growth. The authors suggest that this may be because of the ‘biostimulant’ effect, as shown on the Cress. A previous paper by the same authors showed biostimulant effects on maize of nano-hydroxyapatite functionalised with humic substances, improving early growth, productivity (3 months), rhizosphere bacteria and salt stress resistance. 
“Thermal conversion of fish bones into fertilizers and biostimulants for plant growth – A low tech valorization process for the development of circular economy in least developed countries”, F. Carella, A. Adamiano et al., J. Environmental Chemical Engineering 9 (2021) 104815, DOI
“Synergistic Release of Crop Nutrients and Stimulants from Hydroxyapatite Nanoparticles Functionalized with Humic Substances: Toward a Multifunctional Nanofertilizer”, H. Y. Yoon, A. Adamiano et al., ACS Omega 2020, 5, 6598−6610, DOI. 

Possible significance of phosphine in global P cycles

A review of available information on phosphine (PH3) suggests that this form of phosphorus may be significant in global P cycles, in waste management and in links to climate change, but concludes that data is today insufficient to reach conclusions. Phosphine is  a reactive gas which competes with methane and other reactive gases for hydroxyl radicals in the atmosphere, so prolonging their greenhouse impact. It is oxidised in air to phosphoric acid or phosphate ions, which may contribute to cloud formation, also impacting climate. It is estimated that around 40 000 t/y of phosphine is released to the atmosphere, representing around 10% of airborne phosphorus (to put into perspective: estimates suggest atmospheric deposition of P to the Mediterranean Sea is around half of that from rivers and coastal cities, see ESPP eNews n°43). Phosphine concentrations have been shown to be significantly higher in urban areas, and emissions can be related to anaerobic conditions (paddy fields, manure management, sewage treatment). Phosphate can be reduced to phosphine in redox conditions below -300mV. In specific conditions, up to nearly 20% of P removed from sewage in an oxygen limited membrane reactor was released as phosphine, and the authors suggest that this may be a possible route for P-recovery. 
“Global phosphorus dynamics in terms of phosphine”, W. Fu & W. Zhang, Climate and Atmospheric Science (2020) 3:51 ; https://doi.org/10.1038/s41612-020-00154-7

Study suggests healthier diets increases dietary P intake

A study based on the McCance & Widdowson Composition of Foods Database, suggests that today’s average UK (meat-eater) diet has P intake of 1.35 gP/day, has decreased since the 1940s (it was around 1.6 gP/person/day in the 1950’s), but could increase if people start to adopt more vegetable intensive diets. Today’s average P intake is significantly lower than a vegetarian (1.53 gP/d = +13%), vegan (1.63 gP/d = +20%) or the  proposed EAT-Lancet sustainable diet, see ESPP eNews n°48 (1.85 = +37%). Comparison of the Foods Database to data from UK food surveys suggests that the % of diet P coming from processed (as opposed to fresh foods) has increased from around 20% in the 1940’s to over 50% in 2016, corresponding to a general increase in consumption of processed foods. The % of diet P in animal products (meat, dairy, eggs, fish) increased from around 48% in 1942 to 59% in 1973 and then decreased back to c. 50% by 2016.

The authors found close agreement between the P load entering sewage work, calculated from detailed Environment Agency data, and the dietary P burden calculated from the diet surveys after accounting for estimated industry contributions.

Increased P intake with future sustainable diets and population growth would result in increased P in the inflow of many sewage works. The authors state that this could result in “greater non-compliance with regulatory targets for P discharge” assuming current treatment levels and if treatment efficiency (% P removed) stays constant as inflow P load increases. The view of ESPP, however, is that  that for sewage works with a P-discharge consent, increased inflow P will generally not result in increased P discharge, because discharge is managed to respect the consent level (see Evans 2007), although it may result in increased treatment costs (increased chemical dosing, increased biosolids production). It would also result in increased P inputs to the environment in storm overflows. Some large UK sewage works do not today have a P discharge consent, because they do not discharge into eutrophication sensitive* waters. Around 3% of the UK population are not connected to sewerage and a further c. 3% are connected to small sewage works not subject to P discharge consents (figures taken from the study supplementary information p.3). Additionally, not considered in this study, around 3% of sewage is lost in exfiltration from sewage pipes before reaching the sewage works (from Gilmour et al. 2004). That is, in total maybe 10% of sewage is not entering sewage works with P discharge consents, and for this part increased sewage P levels will partly reach the environment and have environmental impacts.

The authors conclude planning and investment should take into account possible increases in P entering sewage works with healthier diets, in order to maximise recovery and recycling of this phosphorus. 
“Plant-based diets add to the wastewater phosphorus burden, K. Forber et al., Environ. Res. Lett. 15 (2020) 094018 
https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab9271 
* the EU Waste Water Treatment Directive 91/271/EEC defines (Annex II) Sensitive Areas as waters which are “eutrophic or which in the near future may become eutrophic if protective action is not taken”.

Organic Farming can only feed the world with food system changes

A food system analysis of global agriculture suggests that a complete conversion to Organic Farming would require a “huge” increase in land use ( > +30% ) if other changes in the food system are not made, in particular reductions in food waste and in consumption of animal products. Only 20% conversion to Organic Farming would be possible without increasing land use by more than 5%, without other food system changes. Impact on phosphorus surplus is considered negligible, whereas nitrogen surplus would be completely avoided. However, it is noted that nitrogen supply for Organic Farming is a challenge, which previous authors conclude could only be met if cropping intensities were increased and fallow land and intercropping were to be systematically used for legume production, which may not be possible because of e.g. water supply and feasibility of legume production in intercropping in some regions (see Badgley C et al., 2007, Connor D. et al. 2008 and 2013). 
“Strategies for feeding the world more sustainably with organic agriculture”, A. Muller et al., Nature Comunications, 8, 1290, 2017, DOI

Calcium phosphate citrate nanoparticles effective in targeting cancer tumours

Tests on mice suggest that phosphate nanoparticles can reduce cancer tumours. A colloid of mesoporous amorphous nanoparticles with a very high surface area (Brunauer-Emmett-Teller > 900 m2/g) was produced by reacting Ca, P and citric acid at a ratio of 5:3:5. The particles were then coated in lipid or casein. These particles are non-toxic and release non-toxic molecules if broken down in the body, but can selectively kill cancer cells. The cancer cells take in the nanoparticles, leading to high intracellular levels of calcium and citrate which kills them. In vivo tests confirmed that the coated particles strongly decreased the viability of cancer cell lines, at concentrations down to 30 µg/l, but did not significantly reduce normal cell viability at up to 100 µg/l.  Tests with mice showed that the particles reduced the size of two different aggressive pleural tumours by 40% and 70% after two applications, whereas up to eight applications showed no other adverse effects. 
“Synergistic Combination of Calcium and Citrate in Mesoporous Nanoparticles Targets Pleural Tumors”, C. von Shirnding et al., Chem 7, 1–15, 2020 DOI.

How not to do Life Cycle Analysis

A paper in Science of the Total Environment by Golroudbary et al. claims in its conclusions that “phosphorus recycling is not a sustainable solution in a longer perspective”. The paper claims to compare energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for P-recycling with those from phosphate rock mining and mineral fertiliser production. However, the authors seem to misuse data not relevant for P-recycling, and their conclusions are based on an inappropriate LCA allocation of all sewage works emissions to P-recovery, ignoring the fact that the principal function and obligation of the sewage works is to treat sewage.

LCA allocation factors are not mentioned in the paper, whereas a completely inappropriate 100% allocation factor is given to recovered P, zero to N, zero to clean water.

The authors base their analysis of energy demand for P-recycling on only a few papers, in particular Sanders 2003 (pig manure), Ye 2019 (wastewater, no quantitative data on energy or chemicals use), Piippo 2018 (wastewater, comparison of GHG emissions from different sewage sludge treatment routes in Northern Finland), Spångberg 2014 (wastewater, see below) and Buratti 2015 (solid waste).

They conclude that “70% of the GHG emissions from P-recycling is caused by wastewater processing”. This claims to be confirmed in the paper’s supplementary information, where “Energy requirements for wastewater recycling” are indicated as “179 MJ/0.15 kgP” taken from Spångberg 2014. In Spångberg, it is clear that this energy consumption (179 MJ) is for removing both 1.21 kgN and 0.15 kgP in a sewage works operating chemical P removal, not for removing phosphorus only, and not for recycling these nutrients. Attributing this number only to phosphorus recovery is therefore incorrect. Furthermore, and fundamentally, as the authors themselves point out, sewage treatment and phosphorus removal are in any case necessary for environmental protection. The conclusions comparing energy consumption and GHG emissions for P-recycling from sewage to phosphate rock mining and mineral fertiliser production are thus based on a false starting point.

The use of Sanders 2003 is equally inappropriate. This paper considers the overall LCA of several options for management of pig-manure, mostly assessing nitrogen not phosphorus. Use of this data to draw conclusions concerning emissions related to P-recycling is again incorrect, in that the manure must be managed in any case.

Buratti 2015, used for “solid waste”, is also not appropriate. This paper compares composting of food waste to production of chemical fertilisers for the same nutrient value, but again is not relevant for assessing emissions related to P-recycling because the treatment of the food waste is necessary in any case.

The Golroudbary paper is illustrative in several ways: 17 pages of mathematic formulae will not lead to useful results if inappropriate data and system allocations are used; life cycle analyses can be made to say different things depending how the ‘Functional Unit’ and ‘Boundaries’ are defined and how emissions are “allocated” to different functions; “peer reviewed” does not mean scientifically meaningful.

Note that the above is not in any way a criticism of the different papers cited by Golroudbary. These papers are respectable studies, which do what they claim to do, and their authors obviously cannot be held responsible for their subsequent misuse. 
“Environmental sustainability of phosphorus recycling from wastewater, manure and solid wastes”, Science of the Total Environment 672 (2019) 515–524 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.03.439 

Stricter nutrient thresholds needed for rivers

An assessment (1) based on nearly 1 000 samples comparing vegetation samples in rivers to nutrient concentrations in the Central-Baltic Region of Europe (Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania,  Luuxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland) suggests that nutrient thresholds currently set by some countries are too high to achieve Good Ecological Status (as defined by the EU Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC = WFD). The authors, led by the European Commission JRC Ispra, looked at both macrophytes (plants) and phytobenthos (bottom vegetation, algae and plants), concluding that both should be considered, compared to soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP), total phosphorus (TP) and total nitrogen (TN). They compared nutrient levels to EQRs (Ecological Quality Ratios), that is ratios between observed data for macrophytes and phytobenthos and expected ‘reference’ conditions (natural state in the water body), with assessment using the methods defined by each country in WFD intercalibration, e.g. density, species or taxon variety. They conclude that thresholds for Good Ecological Quality range from 30 - 90 µg/SRP/l and 1.0 – 3.5 mgTN/l, varying with river size, altitude and alkalinity. These are ln some cases lower that the boundaries set by Member States which range from 70 to 130 µgSRP/l and 2.3 – 10.0 mgTN/l.

A previous paper (2), led by the same authors at EU JRC Ispra, highlights the wide variety of different nutrient criteria used by EU Member States for quality status assessment under the Water Framework Directive, concluding that in some cases inappropriate criteria may be hindering achievement of good status. Different nutrients (N or P) are used for different water categories, whereas recent research shows that co-limitation is not uncommon. Difference in methods (soluble or total N or P, season of assessment, metrics) mean that thresholds are not comparable. Nutrient criteria are in some cases not clearly related to biological response, and so good ecological status. Criteria fixed by expert judgement tend to be higher (less demanding) than those based on data and modelling. Some countries are using thresholds “significantly above” known limiting nutrient concentrations, or even criteria taken from drinking water standards, which are not intended for this purpose. 
(1) “Estimating river nutrient concentrations consistent with good ecological condition: More stringent nutrient thresholds needed Ecological Indicators”, S. Poikane (EU JRC Ispra) et al., 121 (2021) 107017 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2020.107017 
(2) “Nutrient criteria for surface waters under the European Water Framework Directive: Current state-of-the-art, challenges and future outlook”, S. Poikane et al., Science of the Total Environment 695 (2019) 133888, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.133888 
See also: “Deriving nutrient criteria to support ʽgoodʼ ecological status in European lakes: An empirically based approach to linking ecology and management”, S. Poikane et al., Science of the Total Environment 650 (2019) 2074–2084, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.09.350

Urban nitrogen budgets overview

An interesting analysis of different approaches to nitrogen flow and stock studies for urban areas. Over 60 studies are referenced and information drawn from around twenty of these is outlined and discussed. Nitrogen budget studies in the past have looked at soil systems, at water (river transported N comparing upstream and downstream of a city), atmospheric emissions, human and animal food chain, waste and wastewater treatment. Several studies note that nitrogen fertilisers are often used at very high rates in urban areas, both on lawns and in small farms on crops such as vegetables. Little data was found on nitrogen flows and losses in solid waste treatment. Wastewater treatment showed more significant nitrogen emissions (N2O, ammonia) both to air and to water and often low levels of nitrogen recycling.

Svirejeva-Hopkins, looking at Paris, suggested that the largest N flow was in human food, with around half of this N being finally converted to N2 in wastewater treatment, but the largest environmental impact was from fossil fuel burning, in particular traffic.

Studies, such as L. Baker 2001, suggesting accumulation of N stocks in cities may be flawed.

Several studies for Beijing (Zhang 2016, 2018, 2020) show that total N flows have increased slowly (+1% per year 1996-2012, with N input to farmland and animal feed falling considerably but transport emissions increasing strongly.

Overall, nitrogen recycling rates tend to be very low, e.g. 7% for Bangkok (Faerge 2001). The authors note the difficulty to compare studies, because methodologies differ, and the need to engage with experts beyond scientists to assess relevant flows and processes.

“Urban nitrogen budgets: flows and stock changes of potentially polluting nitrogen compounds in cities and their surroundings – a review”, W. Winiwater et al., J Integrative Env Sciences, vol. 17, n°1, 57-71, 2020 DOI.


ESPP members

ESPP members logos 1 2021

SUBSCRIBE to our eNews and SCOPE Newsletter

 

Read earlier SCOPE and eNews editions.