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ESPP, with support of the EU (DG GROW), is launching work to identify what data is needed on nutrient stocks and flows by industry, agriculture and decision makers, to support stewardship decisions, circular economy objectives and management actions, and how this data should be monitored.

This targets phosphorus (P), potassium (K), possibly other nutrients. Existing work is already underway on nitrogen, e.g. INI - there are links and experience transfer, but duplication should be avoided.

To date, around 20 phosphorus flow studies have been published in different countries and regions of Europe (see below). However, the methodologies used, sectors covered (agriculture, industry, households etc. ), spatial scales and time-horizons are very variable so that results cannot be compared. Many regions have no useable phosphorus flow data. Data for other nutrients is even more scarce and disjoined. Where data is available, it is not readily accessible to stakeholders and is not orientated towards identifying points of possible effective action. Data is rarely updated, so following results of system changes or of impacts of nutrient management actions is not possible. 


The need for improved knowledge of phosphorus flows was the first conclusion of the European Commission Consultative Communication on the Sustainable Use of Phosphorus (Staff Working Document SWD(2014)263final): “In terms of ascertaining the extent of phosphorus supply and demand, … the replies pointed to a need to increase the knowledge base.

Phosphate rock is on the EU list of Critical Raw Materials and an MFA (materials flow analysis) is currently underway. The stakeholders meeting already confirmed the considerable insufficiencies of information currently available to input to this MFA. Now is therefore the time to start to complete the information base in preparation for the next MFA exercise planned in three years’ time (2017).

To launch this work, a workshop is organised in Ghent, 3-4 September 2015 (with Biorefine and Ghent University). This will look at both the gaps in scientific knowledge and methodology for nutrient flow analysis, the operational needs of industry actors and decision makers, and the capacity of data monitoring bodies.

The programme for the workshop can be found here


The European Commission Investment Plan / European Investment Bank (EIB) has identified nutrient recycling and phosphorus management as a priority area for project funding. A first project has already achieved provisional approval, presented by COOPERL (Brittany, France, farmers’ cooperative).

The METHATRAC project combines new generation piggeries equipped with TRAC scraping process, anaerobic digestion of the manure with slaughterhouse waste and municipal sewage to produce biogas and processing of the digestate to a valuable agricultural fertiliser product.

The 16 million € project will treat over 38 000 tonnes of pig manure (110 000 pigs). 55% of manure nitrogen (490 tonnes N/year) and 90% of phosphorus (430 tonnes P/year) will be captured and recycled as fertiliser. 7.6 million m3/year of biogas will be generated. Process water will be purified and recycled (reverse osmosis).

The TRAC piggery system reduces nitrogen climate gas emissions, improves animal and worker welfare (reduced NH4) and facilitates manure treatment for nutrient recycling. 40 such installations are already operational in Brittany. 125 tonnes/year of NH3 volatisation will be avoided in the METHATRAC project piggeries and net emissions of nearly 28 000 tonnes CO2 saved.

This project will accelerate sustainability in Brittany’s specialist intensive agriculture. Already today Brittany's farmers process over 400 000 tonnes of manure per year (processed weight, 50 – 90% dry matter), producing organic fertilisers specifically adapted for different crop needs and transported to other regions of France. In total, Brittany’s 1 100 farms generate livestock manure containing around 200 000 tonnes of nitrogen (N) and 120 000 tonnes of phosphorus (P).

EU Investment Plan / EIB loans are available for high-risk, market ready private investments of significant scale (generally > 15 million €). Nutrient recycling is identified as a target area for new project funding.

EU Investment Plan

For information about possible nutrient recycling project funding loans under this plan, contact ESPP.

Waternet, Amsterdam, has signed a contract with ICL Fertilisers, who will take the recovered struvite produced in the sewage treatment works for use in fertiliser production.

The Waternet sewage works, treats sewage from one million person equivalents (biological nutrient removal) and sludge from two million, incoming from other sewage works (anaerobic digestion). Struvite precipitation (magnesium ammonium phosphate), using the AirPrex process / magnesium chloride dosing in the digestate (anaerobic digester outflow) upstream of the sludge filter press, was installed to address major nuisance incrustation problems in pipes and other installations: operational savings of 200 000 €/year.

The struvite precipitation also improves methane production in the anaerobic digester (possibly by reducing ammonium return streams) and allows biological nutrient removal to achieve phosphorus discharge consent without chemical dosing. The biggest cost benefit comes from improved digestate dewatering (from 20% to 23% dry matter): this results in 300 000 – 400 000 €/year cost savings (gate fee for incineration of sludge in adjacent municipal waste incinerator and lower polymer dosage requirement), effectively resolving dewatering problems which resulted from moving from chemical to biological P removal in the plant.

The Waternet struvite plant started operation in 2013, and has a capacity of 900 tonnes/year. The struvite will now be used in the nearby ICL Fertilisers factory to produce fertilisers, after combination with other minerals.

Ostara are proving that struvite has a real market as a fertiliser. The 150 tonnes struvite/year recovered at Thames Water’s Slough sewage works is being successfully sold to farmers and for turf applications. Demand is exceeding supply and Ostara has even had to import struvite from its several operating plants in North America. Struvite is a slow-release phosphorus & magnesium fertiliser, adapted to plants’ needs for nutrient supply over time. The high quality (purity, granulometry) of Ostara’s CrystalGreen® product is considered by the company to be key to this market success.

Standards fixed by CEN (Europe) and ISP (global) are important in defining processes and quality criteria in many sectors, including fertilisers, sewage treatment and sludge management, waste incineration, environmental monitoring (see in SCOPE Newsletter n° 112). ESPP is proposing to better integrate nutrient stewardship and recycling into standards development. ESPP is also a member of the EU Industrial Emissions Directive Forum, in order to input on nutrient management in the definition of best practice (BAT BREFs) for sectors such as incineration, sewage treatment, agriculture. Contact the ESPP Secretariat for further information.

After consultation of producers and stakeholders, ESPP has prepared draft outline “fertiliser criteria for recovered struvite”. The objective is to move towards a harmonized recognition of struvite as a fertiliser in the EU Fertiliser Regulation revision process, and for this a definition of what can be sold as “struvite” is necessary. ESPP is asking the EU Commission to now engage an official EU process to fix fertiliser criteria for recovered struvite (JRC consultation process). Download ESPP proposed criteria HERE. All comments on these draft criteria are welcome

ESPP (European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform) has written to the EU Commissioners for Better Regulation, Growth, Environment and Agriculture underlining the economic and job potential of the circular economy for nutrients.

Improving phosphorus use, reducing losses to surface waters and developing recycling can deliver: improvements in water quality, reduced EU dependency on phosphate rock imports, new jobs and economic growth in waste and water treatment, biorefineries and recycling, rural development and “greener” agriculture.

The Platform proposes to include in the new European Commission Circular Economy proposals, expected in 2015: to carry through the revision of the Fertiliser Regulation, to harmonise interpretation of existing legislation, to define a coherent EU policy for phosphorus and to implement market-inciting economic tools.

Read ESPP’s letter, proposals for the fertiliser directive, annex on job creation at downloads.

Respond to the European Commission’s public consultation on the Circular Economy (deadline 20th August 2015):

300 companies, governments, scientists and European institutions met in Berlin 5-6th March to take forward phosphorus management: success stories, policy developments, commercial project launches, a US$ 10 million innovation prize, European Commission / P-REX / ESPP meeting on phosphorus recycling, criteria for recovered phosphate fertilisers, ‘Demitarian’ food. The conference and parallel events conclusions are published in Scope Newsletter_special_n°111 ESPC2  Conference Summary. Overview of all ESPC2 downloadables.

From the 1st of January 2015 it is allowed to use three recovered phosphates (struvite, magnesium phosphate and dicalcium phosphate DCP) as a fertilizer in the Netherlands. This includes recovered phosphates from wastewater and agricultural waste. The Ministry of Economic Affairs has realized this improvement in the fertilizer law in cooperation with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment to support the creation of a market for recycled phosphorus. This is a successful result of the Dutch Nutrient Platform’s action since 2011, in particular the Dutch Phosphate Value Chain Agreement signed by more than 20 companies, knowledge institutes, NGO’s and the Netherlands Government. The recovered phosphates are allowed for use as a fertilizer only if the products do not exceed the requirements for heavy metals and organic micro-pollutants applicable for regular fertilizers. For more information (in Dutch) please click here.


Because dosing of magnesium ions is usually required as an input for phosphate
recovery by struvite production, it is important to question whether this poses
issues of possible scarcity of magnesium as a raw material. WssTP and ESPP
have collated information and consulted concerned parties and conclude that the
magnesium ions used for struvite production are not subject to scarcity, although
there may be other cost or LCA issues.

It is also noted that magnesium is a necessary nutrient for plants, so that
magnesium ions used in struvite production are not “lost” but are integrated into
the struvite fertiliser product, where they can have an agronomic value if used appropriately.

Read more


German, Flanders and Dutch Phosphorus platforms organise a joint-event for promotion of recycled fertilisers. The "Recycled Phosphate Marketing Event" aims to spread the word about the availability and quality of the secondary phosphates, already produced in several places in Europe. Positive experiences of the farmers with the novel fertilisers are discussed, against the background of phosphorus challenge and possibilities offered by the circular phosphate fertiliser market.
The event takes place on 21st of January 2015 during the world's largest  food and agriculture exhibition, The International Green Week, in Berlin and is hosted by the Dutch Embassy. More information.


The European Commission has added phosphate rock to the list of 20 Critical Raw Materials, for which supply security is at risk and economic importance is high. Phosphate rock is identified as non-substitutable and of high economic importance. The updated list results from analysis of 54 non-energy, non-food materials including both abiotic and biotic materials. European policies to address raw materials criticality and dependency include improving efficiency of materials use and recycling, waste policy and international cooperation to address supply security.

Global TraPs has announced that it will terminate its activities end 2014. Some form of "global phosphorus initiative", bringing together science, regulators and stakeholders, is expected to be launched by then through GPNM (Global Partnership on Nutrient Management, UNEP secretariat).The GPNM phosphorus initiative project is currently being preapred by a team led by Kaj Sanders (Government of the Netherlands, represented by Arnoud Passenier, President of the European Sustainable Phosphorus Partnership ESPP), Terry Roberts (International Plant Nutrition Institute); and Tom Sims (University of Delaware, USA).




The Biorefine Cluster Europe interconnects projects within the domain of nutrient and energy cycling. Biorefine Cluster contributes to sustainable resource management, from an economic and ecologic point of view. More than 100 institutes and companies from 18 member states, with a combined budget of more than 35 million euro. See SCOPE Newsletter n° 103 under "Downloads" and

The revision of the EU Fertiliser Regulation, under discussion, will facilitate placing on the market of organic and recycled nutrient products whilst ensuring safety and quality. Read more...

7th July 2014, Rennes, France: Sustainable phosphorus management in France: ESPP is organising a first meeting to establish a "sustainable phosphorus network" in France. The meeting will be followed by the workshop "Regions at work for the Bioeconomy", Rennes 7 (evening) - 9 July 2014, organised by the European Commission DG Enterprise and Brittany Region.  

Send us your vision for sustainable phosphorus in tomorrow’s world. ESPP is preparing a special SCOPE Newsletter edition, consisting of short texts presenting perspectives and expert opinion for different pathways to address the phosphorus challenge.



The EU’s new R&D funding programme Horizon2020 includes a number of areas relevant to phosphorus sustainability, with opportunities for research, demonstration, implementation.

Several Horizon 2020 funding calls now open offer opportunities for sustainable phosphorus management projects:

- phosphorus in agriculture: sustainable crop production – external nutrient inputs

- raw materials: sustainable exploration, extraction, processing

- recovery technologies for minerals, specifically focussing on SMEs and demonstration

- cooperation with raw materials producing countries

- nutrient and energy recovery from manures and agricultural wastes

- new solutions for production of raw materials from secondary materials


Details can be found here.

The second European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference (ESPC2) will take place in Berlin, 5th – 6th March 2015. This follows the 1st ESPC Conference, Brussels, March 2013, the establishment of the German P Platform, announcements or consultations on phosphorus policy in several Member States, and continuing developments on phosphorus use, recycling and environmental management. This second European conference ESPC2 will cover the following themes, particularly showcasing success stories and business cases and involvement of the Baltic, Black Sea and Mediterranean areas.

       P losses and environmental impacts

       P from farm to plate

       Food security and international phosphorus supply

       Reuse of P and P-recycling

       Progress made addressing the Phosphorus Challenge

Contact: Christian Kabbe, German Phosphorus Platform and further information soon on

The Commission is launching a consultation on how to use phosphorus in a more sustainable way. Phosphorus is widely used in agriculture and is an essential component in fertiliser and animal feed, but it is a resource which has no substitute. Supplies are limited, prices have been volatile and much phosphorus is currently wasted, creating concerns about the cost and availability of futuresupplies in the EU and worldwide.

The European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform has produced a short outline note estimating potential economic benefits and job creation of P-recycling and P-stewardship. This outline estimate does not claim to be accurate or economically demonstrated because, at present, no coherent data have been collected and no targeted studies are available. Its objective is to solicit further input and comments. Pleas mail your comments to the ESPP team. Download the document ESPP jobs and employment.pdf here

Participate, Colaborate, Innovate... Now is the time to participate! Become an official partner of the European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform and present yourself as a front-runner,  exchange experiences and information on phosphorus recycling and efficiency and have access to a network covering the entire value chain. For more information about the benefits, first actions and the interim budget please download the European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform Call for Parners.

We are glad to share with you the conclusions of the 1st European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference in Brussels that took place in Brussels on the 6th and 7th of March. Please download the document in which the main conclusions as well as the conclusions of the interactive table sessions have been summed up. You are more than welcome to distribute the conclusions further throughout your own networks in order to keep the momentum that has been created around the Phosphorus Challenge.

Conclusion ESPC2013.pdf

The SCOPE Newsletter is produced 4 - 6 times yearly by CEEP and seeks to promote the sustainable use of phosphates through recovery and recycling and a better understanding of the role of phosphates in the environment. The March edition of the Newsletter was dedicated to the European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference and its outcomes. Download the Newsletter here.

Speeches, presentations, key messages, the joint declaration and all cartoons and photos of the European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference are now online on this website. Go to ESPC2013 or the Downloads page. Here you can also find the video that was made during the first day of the Conference. The coming weeks this website will be regularly updated with new outcomes of ESPC2013.

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