The initial European Commission proposal text for the new EU Fertilisers Regulation means that any product where “by-products” have been used at any stage in production would effectively be excluded from the ‘EU Fertiliser’ label. A meeting organised by Fertilisers Europe, at which ESPP spoke, underlined that this would block most fertilisers today on the market, with presentations showing how by-product cycling into fertiliser production is core to the industry. The issue is today taken on board by European Parliament, Council and the Commission in the current trilogue discussions, and the challenge is now to reach a workable legal wording.
Javier Goñi del Cacho, CEO Fertiberia & President of Fertilizers Europe, and Jacob Hansen, Director of Fertilisers Europe, underlined that the fertilisers industry is a frontrunner in Circular Economy, with widespread use of by-products in production processes, so saving nutrients, energy and costs. The Fertilisers Regulation must both enable this to continue, and be open to innovation to recycling of other materials into fertilisers in the future, whilst continuing to ensure quality and safety in products delivered to farmers. A survey of fertiliser companies presented by Tiffanie Stefani, Fertilisers Europe Agriculture & Environment Manager, presented a survey of 6 large fertiliser companies: of 500 mineral fertiliser products currently CE marked, 75% use by-products in their production. The circular economy is vital to Europe’s fertiliser industry because Europe is largely dependent on imports for phosphorus supply, for natural gas (natural gas is 62-84% of production cost of nitrogen fertilisers) and has only 2% of the world’s potassium reserves (90% are in Russia, Bielorussia and the USA).
Case studies showed the reality and importance of circularity by examples of reuse of by-products in fertiliser production today. Joaquim Queisser, BASF, explained that his company uses one million tonnes/year of ammonium sulphate by-product from polyamide (performance polymer) upstream production as a nitrogen source for fertiliser production. Rachel Lombardi, Industrial Synergies, showed that industrial symbiosis is implemented worldwide. Javier Brañas, Fertiberia, presented the case of a recently developed specialist fertiliser for olives: 40% of input materials are by-products. Amaury Rosier, Solvakem, presented the use of spent industrial sulphuric acid (by-product) in fertiliser production: lower costs and local supply mean that can be crucial for the survival of SME phosphate fertiliser producers in Europe.
Tatu Liimatainen, Cabinet of EC Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, underlined the importance of the EU Fertilisers Regulation, as a key initiative of the Commission’s Circular Economy Package. He noted industry’s concerns on by-products and his full support for finding solutions. He also noted that the third set of package measures, presented in January 2018 includes addressing the chemicals regulation/waste regulation interface.
Mihai Ţurcanu MEP, Rapporteur for the European Parliament IMCO Committee, indicated that Parliament has adopted two amendments aiming to address this issue, the issue is now under discussion in trilogue, and is approached constructively by Council. He underlined the shared objective to finalise the Regulation under the Bulgarian Presidency (before end June 2018).
Stéphane Murieux, French Institute for the Circular Economy, underlined that the circular economy is a priority of the Macron government, and invited input to the working group on agriculture circular economy. Claudio Ciavatta, Bologna University Italy, underlined that R&D is needed to develop knowledge on safety and effectiveness.
Eugen Kohler, Deutscher Bauernverband (German Farmers’ Association) stated that farmers want to be assured of product safety, and so wish to have information on which by-products are used a fertiliser, or to have traceability.
Chris Thornton and Ludwig Hermann, European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform (ESPP), reminded that the Fertilisers Regulation is highly ambitious because it covers a wide range of industries (inorganic fertilisers, organic products, liming materials, biostimulants …), including both large companies and many SMEs. This poses challenges for the different industries concerned to work together to propose workable solutions. Solutions for by-products in the EU Fertilisers Regulation must also consider by-products from plants, crops or bio-based industries. The new Fertilisers Regulation is also highly ambitious because it is the first time EU product legislation will confer “End-of-Waste” status, and is already addressing the REACH/chemicals/waste interface. It is therefore important to maintain Commission “delegation” to modify the annexes and to anticipate development of Commission Guidance Documents to support implementation by companies and by Member States.
In discussion, the importance of dialogue in coming weeks between trilogue (Parliament, Council, Commission), industry and stakeholders was underlined, to ensure that the final text combines legal soundness, industry workability and stakeholder acceptability. The inclusion of a “positive list” of all identified by-products was rejected by most participants as unrealistic (too many by-products not feasible to list all, not always clearly defined) and contrary to future innovation. Possible solutions voiced include: (1) acceptance of by-products which are REACH registered, (2) documentation that by-products are used for justified reasons, such as a useful role in the production process or improving agronomic value, (3) reliance on PFC contaminant and safety criteria, (4) some form of traceability (not necessarily on the physical label), (5) if a by-product is susceptible to contain source-contaminants and not covered in PFC criteria then these should be assessed, (6) in CMC1, exclude wastes and animal by-products (as in the proposed text) and a short negative list should exclude by-products from problematic sources (e.g. nuclear sector, waste treatment …).
Fertilizers Europe meeting “Symbiosis and Circular Economy in Fertilizers”, 7th March 2018 Brussels www.fertilizerseurope.com/media/news/single/article/symbiosis-and-circular-economy-in-fertilizers-1
Cross-industry “Joint Statement” on the EU Fertilisers Regulation, 20th November 2017 www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory