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

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ESPP dates 2024

ESPP workshops on Nutrient recycling policy
Market policy tools to support pull for recycled nutrients
Defining targets for nutrient reuse and recycling from waste water

ESPP new member
Toopi Organics

Policy
Political agreement on EU Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD)
Digital labelling of fertilising products is a missed opportunity according to industry
BAT for slaughterhouses published: includes struvite recovery

Research and innovation
Benefits of organo-mineral fertilisers
Testing thermal plasma treatment of dried sewage sludge
Long-term phosphate fertiliser application and heavy metals in soils
Second JRC study again suggests that UE+UK soils are accumulating phosphorus
Iron phosphate precipitation from electronics industry wastewater
To where does nitrogen in sewage go?
P-recovery potential from biofuels production 
Bacterial biorecovery of ammonium sulphate from digestate

Stay informed

ESPP members

 

ESPP dates 2024

  • 22 February, 14h-15h30: webinar on EU Nitrates Directive evaluation (consultation here)
    and Renure (criteria for “processed manure” recycled nutrients)
  • 27-28 Feb. 2024: Warsaw CRU Phosphates 2024 ESPP panel on sustainable fertilisers
  • 13-14 March 2024: Brussels & online ESPP workshops on Nutrient recycling policy
    - 13th March: market policy tools to support pull for recycled nutrients (optional networking dinner)
    - 14th March: targets for nutrient recovery under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive revision
  • 16-17 April 2024: Brussels & online NERM Nutrients in Europe Research Meeting
    (with Fertimanure, Lex4Bio, Walnut, Sea2Land, Rustica)
  • 8-10 October 2024: Lleida, Spain ESPC5 (5th European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference)

ESPP workshops on Nutrient recycling policy

Market policy tools to support pull for recycled nutrients

Identifying policy tools to support market pull for recycled nutrients, which could achieve consensus across industry and users. Speakers from waste and water industries, fertiliser industries, circular economy policy experts. Proposals to be discussed will include targets, quotas, border tariffs, recycling credits, fiscal incentives, public purchasing, labelling … Industry and user positions can differ: The meeting aims to identify policies which could achieve consensus across recycled product producers (waste companies, recycling technology suppliers), industry and users (fertilisers industries, distributers, farmers), and to discuss ESPP proposals to submit to policy makers.

13th March Brussels & online. Registration is open www.phosphorusplatform.eu/nutrientevents2024   

Defining targets for nutrient reuse and recycling from waste water

The proposed UWWTD revision text (art. 20) states:The Commission is empowered to adopt delegated acts … setting out the minimum reuse and recycling rates for phosphorus and nitrogen”, see eNews n°80. This workshop will define ESPP proposals for these targets: How to define “reuse” and “recycling” ? What % rate? What criteria for products ? What rates for different sizes waste water treatment works or type of sewage treatment ? …

14th March: Brussels & online. Registration is open www.phosphorusplatform.eu/nutrientevents2024   
Your input and proposals are welcome: present your ideas on these questions (and why) in Brussels, 14th March. We still have a few slots available. Please send short outlines of proposals for pitches to as soon as possible to .

ESPP new member

Toopi Organics

Toopi Organics is a french start-up, incorporated in 2019, processing separately collected human urine and valorising it in agriculture. Toopi Organics aims to save water and nutrient resources while offering green alternative solutions for farmers. Toopi collects urine at source from waterless urinals and uses it as a growing medium to perform submerged liquid fermentation, producing organic urine-based microbial biostimulants to increase nutrient use efficiency and reduce mineral fertilisers for crops. More information in ESPP eNews n°82.

https://toopi-organics.com/

Policy

Political agreement on EU Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD)

European Parliament and Council have announced agreement on the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD) revision, probably enabling adoption before the June 2024 European elections. The agreement now must go to Parliament and Council environment committees for endorsement, then formal plenary vote by both institutions. The coregulators underline that the 1991 UWWTD has been highly effective in reducing water pollution because of the simplicity of its requirements. Announced points of the political agreement include obligations of secondary wastewater treatment for all agglomerations > 1 000 p.e. by 2039 and of tertiary (N and P removal) and quaternary treatment (organic micropollutants) for all large agglomerations and, in areas with identified risk, down to 10 000 p.e. by 2045. Energy neutrality targets for waste water treatment plants will be required by 2045. Other measures agreed in principle include monitoring of microplastics, antibacterial resistance, Covid virus tracers and PFAS, polluter pays (for quaternary treatment, applicable to pharmaceuticals and cosmetics industries), promoting treated sewage water reuse. The communications do not specify what agreement is reached on nutrient recycling. The European Commission proposal (art. 20) indicated that the Commission should be empowered to set “minimum reuse and recycling rates for phosphorus and nitrogensee eNews n°80. Both Parliament and Council proposed amendments to conditions for this, but both retained the principle of phosphorus reuse and recycling targets, whereas Council proposed to delete nitrogen from this article. The full text of the agreement is not yet published.

29th January 2024.
European Commission communication: More thorough and cost-effective urban wastewater management (europa.eu)
Council:  Urban wastewater: Council and Parliament reach a deal on new rules for more efficient treatment and monitoring
European Parliament: Deal on more efficient treatment and reuse of urban wastewater

Digital labelling of fertilising products is a missed opportunity according to industry

Council and Parliament have reached agreement, but Fertilizers Europe considers that the proposal will not significantly reduce complexity of on-package labels and of packaging wastage required every time a label needs to be modified. Digital labelling enables to include additional information on product use and characteristics, which is not possible or not legible on a physical label. It also allows different types of user (blender, distributor, farmer, public consumer …) to access different information according to their requirements. The agreed rules (not yet published) will not allow digital-only labelling for any packaging other than bulk, with key information continuing to be required on physical labelling on packaged products. Fertilizers Europe suggests that digital-only labelling should also be an option for professional and industrial end-users. The industry federation indicates that nearly 2 million fertiliser packages (only taking into account packages above 500kg) have to be discarded every year in Europe because of physical labelling modifications.

“Commission welcomes the political agreement on the voluntary digital labelling of EU fertilising products”, European Commission 23 January 2024 here.

BAT for slaughterhouses published: includes struvite recovery

The European Commission has published the updated BAT for “for slaughterhouses, animal by-products and/or edible co-products industries”, including struvite recovery as a possible BAT (Best Available Technology, under the EU Industrial Emissions Directive), replacing the previous 2015 BAT BREF. Relevant to nutrients, the adopted BAT includes measurement of wastewater phosphorus and nitrogen, including mass flows (but not calculation of mass flows in incoming animals and output food products or animal by-products), P and N removal from wastewater, and now includes struvite precipitation from waste waters with > 50 mgP/l (indicative concentration):

  • BAT 2 and BAT 7: Environmental management system including measurement in waste waters of average concentration and mass flows of phosphorus, nitrogen species and organic carbon.
  • BAT 14: Waste water treatment including where appropriate: N removal (down to 2 -25 mgNtotal/l) , P removal (down to 0.25 - 2 mgPtotal/l) by precipitation, enhanced biological P removal (EBPR) and/or struvite recovery.
  • BAT 12: Resource efficiency: “Phosphorus recovery as struvite” (e.g. waste water with P > 50 mg/l) and/or anaerobic digestion.

European Commission decision 2023/2749 “establishing the best available techniques (BAT) conclusions, under Directive 2010/75/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on industrial emissions, for slaughterhouses, animal by-products and/or edible co-products industries” (32 pages), 18/12/2023 https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=OJ%3AL_202302749

Research and innovation

Benefits of organo-mineral fertilisers

Yara summarise the sustainability benefits and challenges of combining mineral fertilisers with organic materials for optimal agronomic and environmental benefits and developments engaged by the company. 65-year field trials at Yara’s Hanninghof research centre, Dülmen, Germany, show that combining organic fertiliser (farmyard manure) and mineral fertiliser (potato/cereal rotation) resulted in increased soil organic carbon, increased water use efficiency (3x improvement) and highest yield and profitability. Yara is developing organo-mineral fertilisers (OMFs) in order to deliver such benefits to farmers, and to enable optimal recycling of local organic nutrient resources. Yara has carried out greenhouse tests and is now doing field trials, looking both at efficiency for crops, impacts on soil and risks of nitrogen losses (possible ammonia or N2O emissions to air). OMFs are delivered as pellets to farmers, to facilitate handling and enable spreading (which is important for yield). Local transformation routes are needed as organic secondary resources are scattered locally and transport would be inefficient and expensive. Nitrogen uptake alone does not explain increased yields from OMFs, so these are considered to result from other benefits such as soil organic carbon (40 – 80 % of organic carbon applied is shown to be stored in soil in the rhizosphere) and soil microorganism activation. Application timing must however be adjusted to adapt nutrient release to crop needs and so minimise nutrient losses.

“Optimising crop production by combining organic-based and mineral fertilizer sources: Agronomic performance, soil and environmental considerations”, A. Becerra, Yara, at the IFS (International Fertiliser Society) annual conference, Cambridge, UK, 6-7 December 2023. IFS events here.
The 2024 IFS annual conference will take place 11-13 December 2024, Cambridge, UK.
“65 years-long research concludes: Mineral fertilizer supports sustainable agriculture”, Yara press release, 5th September 2023.and book chapter “Effect of Balanced and Integrated Crop Nutrition on Sustainable Crop Production in a Classical Long-Term Trial”, M. Jate, J. Lammel, in “Sustainable Crop Production - Recent Advances” 2022 here.

Testing thermal plasma treatment of dried sewage sludge

Study presents tests to convert sewage sludge and recovered carbon dioxide (CCUS) to ash and syngas, with a 2-hour test run of a 220 litre interior volume, 15 kg/h, 1200°C thermal plasma reactor. The reactor used an argon-water stabilised DC plasma torch (max 150 kWe) with rotating copper disc anode. The torch generated a plasma at around 18 000 °C at its outlet, resulting in temperature of c. 1200°C measured on the reactor walls. The feedstock for this reactor was dried anaerobically digested sludge (c. 6% water) from a Czech municipal sewage treatment plant (15 kg/h), as was CO2 (c. 1200 l/h): the objective was to capture industrial carbon dioxide and convert it to syngas by reacting with sewage sludge (CCUS = carbon capture utilisation stockage). The cold gas efficiency (energy recovered in syngas / electric energy consumed by plasma torch plus energy potential in sewage sludge) was c. 35% (the authors suggest this could be increased to nearly 50% by thermal insulation of the reactor / heat recycling). This does not take into account energy used upstream for drying of the sewage sludge. Very low char production meant that carbon conversion (carbon to syngas) was over 95%. The authors suggest that an advantage of this route for sewage sludge treatment is that phosphorus in the reactor will be volatilised to elemental phosphorus (high temperature, reducing conditions, silicates in sewage sludge). In these trials, the phosphorus was found in the offgas filter (particles) and retained in the reactor.

“Integration of thermal plasma with CCUS to valorize sewage sludge”, V. Sikarwar et al., Energy 288 (2024) 129896, DOI.

Long-term phosphate fertiliser application and heavy metals in soils

Field trials show increased soil P, but also increased soil cadmium, uranium, chromium, vanadium and arsenic, in topsoil, after 45 years of repeated fertilizer application. Results are based on soil samples from five plots with different levels of P fertiliser application from 1966 to 2022 (zero control up to 72 kgP/ha, that is up to 3 – 4 x crop requirements) at Tidewater Research Station, North Carolina, USA. P content of topsoil was strongly correlated to soil concentrations of Cd, U, Cr, V and As, all of which were present in the applied fertilisers at levels above soil background concentrations (23 mgCd/kg, 163 mgU/kg, 179 mgV/kg, 132mgCr/kg). The correlations shown include the plots with repeated high excess fertiliser application, it is unclear to what extent the results are significant for plots with fertiliser applied according to agronomic recommendations. The paper does not show data for the relation fertiliser application – soil meta(loids), but shows correlations soil P – soil metl(loids). Potassium fertiliser, which was also applied, had low levels of these metals. The metal(loid) increases were mostly found only in topsoil, not in deeper soils. The authors note that the increase in plant available P (Mehlich-III) may cause mobilisation of metals already present in soil, but conclude that the data indicate that the rate of P-fertiliser application is correlated to occurrence of the metal(loid)s in topsoil. The possible significance of the changes in heavy metal levels was not analysed and possible increased uptake of the metal(loid)s by crops was not assessed.

“Evidence for the accumulation of toxic metal(loid)s in agricultural soils impacted from long-term application of phosphate fertilizer”, J. Hu et al., Sci. Total Environment 907 (2024) 167863 DOI.

Second JRC study again suggests that UE+UK soils are accumulating phosphorus

Modelling suggests average soil P accumulation of 0.11 kgP/ha/y in arable soil (total 190 ktP/y),2010-2019, somewhat higher than 130 ktP/y in  a previous JRC study (Panagos et al. 2023, see ESPP eNews n°73), with high regional variations. This represents c.8% of applied phosphorus (6.5 kgP/y from manure and 6.4 kgP/ha/y from mineral fertilisers, other organic P inputs not considered). Net P losses by soil erosion (minus deposition) are estimated as 0.25 kgP/ha/y, that is more than twice soil P accumulation. The study uses the DayCent model to estimate daily dynamics of C, N, P and S between plants, soil and air, at a 1 km2-grid level, considering six different soil P pools: POrg) and five mineral P pools: Plabile, Psorbed, Pstrongly sorbed, Pparent, and Poccluded. Model inputs included LUCAS soil and water data, CLC land-use, meteorological data, CORDEX climate project data, Eurostat (crops, irrigation, mineral fertiliser inputs), FAO livestock distribution, SAGE agronomy parameters and literature numbers for P excretion, soil P partition, etc. The authors model consequences of management scenarios to 2050, concluding that increased use of N-fixing cover crops can reduce the P-surplus by increasing crop productivity (N availability, whilst also reducing erosion losses. The authors note that results for national P budgets from this modelling study correspond for some countries to those from the empirical Panagos 2023 study or to national statistics, but diverge for other countries.

“Assessing the phosphorus cycle in European agricultural soils: Looking beyond current national phosphorus budgets”, A. Muntwyler et al., Sci. Total Environment 906 (2024) 167143 DOI.

Iron phosphate precipitation from electronics industry wastewater

Lab tests looked at use of ferrous sulphate to precipitate soluble phosphorus from mobile phone metal shell polishing wastewater, achieving over 95% P-precipitation and a precipitate with c. 25% vivianite, 75 % iron phosphate colloid. The industrial process water contains over 200 mgP/l and had pH <3. Optimal conditions for P-precipitation showed to be c. 1.5:1 molar ratio Fe:P and pH around 7. At these conditions, the iron phosphate precipitated contained <25% vivianite, and was mostly colloidal iron phosphate, that is lower vivianite content than expected from literature and modelling. Given the low proportion of vivianite in the precipitate and that no evidence is provided to suggest that the precipitated phosphate material could be recycled, the title of the paper seems to misleading.

“Efficient removal and recovery of phosphorus from industrial wastewater in the form of vivianite”, Y. Zhang et al., Environmental Research 228 (2023) 115848 DOI.

To where does nitrogen in sewage go?

Analysis of data for France suggests that only c. 10% of N from human excreta is recycled (despite 3/4 of sewage going to agriculture), half is lost to the atmosphere and 40% goes to surface and ground water. The study analyses data from all of France’s sewage treatment plants (over a decade), autonomous sewage treatment, population, diet, nitrogen in human faeces and urine. Nitrogen removal in sewage works varied from around 60 to 85%, with higher removal rates in Nitrates Directive “Nitrate Vulnerable Zones” and in larger sewage works. No data is available for nitrogen losses to air in sewage works, but nitrification – denitrification converts much of inflow N to N2 lost to air. The authors estimate around 10% N losses to water upstream of sewage works. Of the N arriving at sewage works, around 50% is lost to air in sewage works, 40% to surface waters and only around 10% recycled to land. In autonomous sewage treatment systems, losses to underground water are estimated to be around 3/4. N in urine represents c. 15% of French mineral N fertiliser consumption (0.3 vs 2 MtN/y) and the authors estimate that recycling N from human sewage, via separate collection of urine, could cover around 10% of France’s protein production with current diets, or up to around 30% if diets moved away from meat to plant-based.

“Fate of nitrogen in French human excreta: current waste and agronomic opportunities for the future, T. Starck et al., 2024, Nitrogen in agro-food systems and the environment, 912, pp.168978, DOI.

P-recovery potential from biofuels production

US Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance webinar with R. Cusick (University of Illinois) shows the significant potential and environmental benefits of for phosphorus recovery from maize processing to biofuels. The US harvests nearly 1.5 Mt/y of maize for biofuel (bioethanol) production, that is around 1/3 of US maize production. The maize contains phosphorus which is not wanted in the biofuel (in combustion it would generate corrosive phosphoric acid) and ends up in distillers’ grains which mostly go to animal feed. High P in feed is transferred to manure, and can contribute to eutrophication of water bodies. Maize processing (CBs = corn biorefineries) generate liquor streams with higher P concentrations than in wastewater or manure, they are large installations, mainly clustered in US Mid-West States, where there is high demand for fertilisers. Most of the phosphorus in the input maize is in phytate, but the processing partly breaks this down and mineralises or solubilises the phosphorus, making it available for P-recovery processes. Total P in distillers’ grains in the US is estimated to be around 230,000 t/y, that is around 13% of P mineral fertiliser consumption in the US. In bioethanol producing states such as Iowa, that percentage can be as high as 37% mineral P fertilizer consuption. Total P-recovery potential from maize biofuel production (corn biorefineries) in the US is estimated to be around twice that from municipal wastewater (as struvite), with the median recovery potential for corn biorefineries estimated to be three orders of magnitude greater than a wastewater treatment plants (1,000  vs 0.5 t/facility).

“Mapping the National Phosphorus Recovery Potential from Centralized Wastewater and Corn Ethanol Infrastructure”, K. Ruffatto et al., Environ. Sci. Technol. 2022, 56, 12, 8691–8701 DOI.
“Modeling National Embedded Phosphorus Flows of Corn Ethanol Distillers’ Grains to Elucidate Nutrient Reduction Opportunities”, K. Ruffatto et al., Environ. Sci. Technol. 2023, 57, 38, 14429–14441 DOI.
“Big Opportunity for Phosphorus Recovery from Bioethanol Processes”, Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance “Science Now” webinar, 21 minutes, date November 8, 2023, available online here.

Bacterial biorecovery of ammonium sulphate from digestate

Lab trials (100 ml, 15 days) showed production of ammonium sulphate by Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans from liquid fraction of dairy manure digestate, generating a material showed 90% ammonium sulphate content after drying @ 60°C. The manure digestate was lab centrifuged, resulting in zero measured solids, 100 mM ammonia, 0.1 mMP and 10 mM K. Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans was stepwise acclimatised to ammonia at 400 mM-N, then incubated with the digestate liquor and  with elemental sulphur. The bacteria reduced the digestate pH from c. 9 to 2 over 15 days. This produced c. 6g of ammonium sulphate (after drying), so in 100 ml of digestate/inoculum that is 6% ammonium sulphate solution (1.2 %N) with 10 % impurities.

“Biorecovery of ammonium from manure digestate by Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans”, B. Jalili et al., Chem Eng J Chemical Engineering Journal 466 (2023) 143094 DOI.

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ESPP member logos 29.01.24 page 0001

 

Political agreement between Council and Parliament adds only aluminium to the “Strategic” materials list. Phosphorus is not added to the ‘Strategic’ materials list but remains on the ‘Critical’ raw materials list. The ‘Strategic’ list is 16 raw materials identified as supply-critical for ‘strategic technologies’ defined as “green and digital transitions … defence and space applications”. Both phosphate rock and “phosphorus” (meaning P4 = white phosphorus) remain on the EU list of “Critical” raw materials (34 materials). Graphite, already on the “Strategic” list, is extended to both synthetic and natural graphite. The trilogue agreement is not public. It will lead to detailed compromise amendments which then go back to European Parliament and Council for validation votes. To ESPP’s understanding, only “Strategic” materials are concerned by the main tools of the CRM Act (EU sourcing, processing and recycling targets; Strategic Projects) but all “Critical” raw materials will benefit from monitoring of supply and uses, programmes to develop recovery and recycling, and stress tests every three years.

European Commission: “Commission welcomes political agreement on the Critical Raw Materials Act”, 13th November 2023.
Council: “Council and Parliament strike provisional deal to reinforce the supply of critical raw materials”, 13th November 2023.

European Commission “feasibility study” considers two sewage sludge management options: 1 = ongoing land use of treated sludge with tighter monitoring and contaminant limits; 2 =mandatory sludge incineration with P-recovery. The study rejects options for ongoing sewage sludge land use without EU regulatory contaminant limits. The study does not select a preferred option of the two considered because of uncertainties about levels of contaminants and related risk, and with the aim of enabling further stakeholder input. The scenario (1) proposes that sewage sludge from larger sewage works applied in agriculture must qualify under the EU Fertilising Products Regulation and that other quality requirements would be applicable to sludge from smaller sewage works used in agriculture or forestry etc. (p31), and also that all sludge used on land should be applied according to crop phosphorus needs and with good management practice requirements (p34).

The study indicates that the EU generates just over 8 Mt/y dry matter (DM) of sewage sludge of which c. 32% is incinerated (based on Eurostat 2021). 10% of EU sewage sludge still goes to landfill, resulting in significant methane emissions.

Table 1 (p8) shows that heavy metal limits are generally lower in current Member State national legislation than in the EU Sewage Sludge Directive (which dates from 1986 and has not been updated), and also that the lowest national heavy metal limits for sewage sludge are in all cases lower than EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR) limits (for Organic Fertiliser / Organic Soil Improvers). The average observed heavy metal levels in sewage sludge are also lower than the EU FPR limits for all eight metal contaminants considered. However, JRC note concerns about other chemicals potentially found in sewage sludge, including industrial chemicals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, personal care chemicals, PFAS, microplastics, and consider (p26) that risk assessments of these chemicals in sludge are inadequate, in particular because they do not take into account local context and combination effects of chemicals in sludge.

The study suggests (p 19-20) that benefits to society are highest for mono-incineration of sewage sludge with phosphorus recovery (option 1). Use of composted or digested sewage sludge in agriculture has net positive benefits (assuming tight contaminant limits and application of nutrients according to crop requirements and not in excess) but significantly lower than for option 1, whereas co-incineration (phosphorus not recovered) has negative net societal impacts and landfilling has strongly negative societal impacts. On the other hand the cost of mono-incineration (option 2) is estimated to be 2-3 x higher than agriculture application (option 1).

Organic carbon returned to soil by use of treated sewage sludge is not considered significant (fig. 5 p 11, p 35) compared to manure and bio-waste.

Short-term agronomic P-efficiency is considered to be higher in mineral P-fertiliser products recovered from sewage sludge incineration ash than in agricultural application of sewage sludge, so leading to lower expected nutrient losses in scenario 2 (p 43-44).

Option 2 (mono-incineration and P-recovery from sewage sludge incineration ash) is estimated to result in additional annualised total EU costs (Capex plus Opex, compared to agricultural sludge application) of 138 – 569 million € per year, depending on the  size of sewage works above which this is mandated (138 M€ if sewage works > 500 000 p.e. – 569 M€ if > 20 000 p.e.). If mandated for sewage works > 50 000 p.e. estimated additional cost is 1.4 – 3.3 €/person/year, that is 1-3% of wastewater treatment costs. Correspondingly, option 2 ( > 50 000 p.e.) would generate 3 000 – 4 200 full time job equivalents across Europe.

The study underlines that cost to operators of societally positive sludge management options are higher than for options with negative societal impacts, so that policy action is therefore necessary.

ESPP will make comments to JRC on the content, methodology and conclusions of this study, probably in early 2024. Any input to these comments is welcome, to ESPP  by end 2023.

“Feasibility study in support of future policy developments of the Sewage Sludge Directive (86/278/EEC)”, European Commission, JRC Science for Policy Report, L. Egle et al., 2023 https://dx.doi.org/10.2760/305263

European Commission opens public consultation for evaluation of the Nitrates Directive, citing climate, food security, sustainability, nutrient recycling and the commitment to reduce nutrient losses by 50% by 2030. The evaluation will assess if the Directive remains “fit for purpose”, if it is coherent with EU environmental objectives, whether cost and administration burdens can be reduced. The consultation (in 27 languages) is 16 questions plus possibilities for comments or to submit documents. The accompanying “Call for Evidence” specifically notes the question of whether the Directive is sufficiently promoting the recycling of nutrients, including from processed manure, and the EU commitment at COP15 (Convention on Biological Biodiversity) to reduce nutrient losses by 50% by 2030. Phosphates (which are not mentioned in the current Nitrates Directive text) are mentioned in the online introduction to the questionnaire, but not in the questionnaire, not in the Call for Evidence. Recycling of nutrients is cited in Q2.7. Measures to limit inappropriate manure spreading and the 170 kgN/ha manure nitrogen limit are cited in Qs 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 3.9. Addressing intensive livestock production is cited in Qs 3.1, 3.9. Questions address which Nitrates Directive measures are effective (Nitrate vulnerable Zones, Action Programmes, manure storage, manure spreading limit … Q3.2) and relevance to Water Framework Directive Good Ecological Status and to the 50% nutrient loss reduction objective (both Q3.12).

“The protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources – Evaluation”, public consultation preparatory to evaluation of the EU Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC) and Call for Evidence. Input requested from the public, farmers, stakeholders. Open to 8th March 2024. In all EU languages. HERE.

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

Please subscribe www.phosphorusplatform.eu/Subscribe
Link to www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNews082
Download as PDF

ESPP dates for 2024
SOFIE3
Standards & definitions for “Bio-Based” nutrients
Targets for nutrient recovery under the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive revision

Policy
German Environment Ministers’ conference calls for implementation of P-recovery
EU-funded R&D into Circular Economy outcomes are mainly publications
Proposed dental amalgam ban will reduce mercury levels in sewage and water bodies
EU JRC Seville recruitment offers – Sustainable Industry

Phosphorus Recycling
Ostara’s Crystal Green: first recovered struvite to obtain EU FPR CE-mark
Further pilot trial announced for ViviMag® iron phosphate recovery
EU funding for roll out of agronomic biostimulant recycled from human urine
Safe use of recycled phosphates in animal feed

Aquaculture, algae, fisheries
Legal status for nutrient recycling from fish manure, algae, seafood, aquaculture
Review: nutrient recycling from fisheries and aquaculture

Research
Sewage sludge treatment in Czech Republic and in Japan
Netherlands wastewater nutrient recycling project KNAP

Stay informed

ESPP members

 

ESPP dates for 2024

  • 16-17 Jan. 2024: Brussels & online SOFIE3 (Organic and Organo-Mineral Fertilisers)
    (with Eurofema, Fertilizers Europe, International Fertiliser Society and SILC Fertilizzanti)
  • 18 Jan. 2024: Brussels & online “Bio-Based” nutrients - standards & definitions
  • 26-28 Feb. 2024: Warsaw CRU Phosphates 2024 ESPP panel on sustainable fertilisers
  • 13-14 March 2024: Brussels & online ESPP workshops on Nutrient recycling policy
    - 13th March: policy tools to support market pull for recycled nutrients
    - 14th March: targets for nutrient recovery under the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive revision
  • 16-17 April 2024: Brussels & online NERM Nutrients in Europe Research Meeting
    (with Fertimanure, Lex4Bio, Walnut, Sea2Land, Rustica)
  • 8-10 October 2024: Lleida, Spain ESPC5 (5th European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference)

SOFIE3

sofie 2024 thumb3rd Summit of Organic and organo-mineral Fertiliser Industries in Europe.
16-17 January 2024, Brussels & hybrid.
SOFIE is the only industry meeting place for organic-carbon-based fertiliser producers, distributors, advisory, technology suppliers. SOFIE1 (2019) attracted 125 participants, with 230 for SOFIE2 (2023).
SOFIE3 has an exceptional lineup of speakers, featuring key insights from esteemed organizations and industry leaders. Join us to hear from the European Commission (DG AGRI and DG GROW), Notified Bodies like CerTrust and EFCI Register, alongside renowned companies such as Yara, ICL, and Fertilisers Europe. We'll also have insightful contributions from Eurofema, EBA, S&P/Fertecon, ADAS, Nutriënten Management Instituut, and IPS Konzalting.
The conference will be enriched by the participation of leading companies in the field, including Yara, K+S, Sede Environment, Culterra, Terramarine, Tessenderlo Group, Unimer, Den Ouden, Fertinagro, Ductor, DCM, Compo, Stiesdal, Biota Nutri, Darling Ingredients, Omya, Honkajoki, Labin, Ormin, Sappi, Agrana Starch, Green Circle, Centeon, AgriBioSource Europe, Alan SRL, The Waste Transformers, Steel Belt Systems, Sedron Technologies, and Sanitation360. This event promises to be a melting pot of ideas and innovations, shaping the future of our industry. Connect, collaborate, and be part of this transformative journey.

Programme and registration www.phosphorusplatform.eu/SOFIE

Standards & definitions for “Bio-Based” nutrients

Brussels & hybrid, 18th January 2024 Defining “Bio-Based Fertilisers” and FPR “solely biological origin”. 

enews80 2The term “Bio-Based Fertilisers” is today being widely used. For market transparency and policy making, it is important to have a clear and agreed definition of what is a “Bio-Based Fertiliser” and how to define the “Bio-Based” nutrient content of fertilising products. Also, the EU Fertilising Products Regulation 2019/2009 uses the term “of solely biological origin” for nutrients in criteria of several PFCs and there is today no clarity on how this should be interpreted. CEN and ISO methodologies for “Bio-based products: vocabulary” and for defining bio-based content are based on carbon radio-dating, and are not applicable to nutrients.
The meeting will take as starting point the working proposal HERE. Programme: http://phosphorusplatform.eu/BBF2024 Registration Eventbrite

 

Targets for nutrient recovery under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive revision

ESPP policy workshop to define proposals for possible regulatory targets for phosphorus and nitrogen reuse-recycling from sewage, Thursday 14th March 2024, Brussels & online.
The proposed UWWTD revision draft text (art. 20) states*: “The Commission is empowered to adopt delegated acts … setting out the minimum reuse and recycling rates for phosphorus and nitrogen …”.
This meeting aims to develop consensus proposals for such “reuse and recycling rates”, covering for example:

  • what are feasible “rates” for P and for N recovery?
  • how should these “rates” be defined? …  as % of wwtp inflow? … as % in sludge? … as % in ash? …
    as recovery of P or N down to a certain residual level (per p.e.)? … other …?
  • should the “rates” be different for wwtps of different size? different configuration? Before or after sludge energy valorisation / combustion ?
  • definition of “reuse and recycling”? … Should this include treated sludge use in agriculture (biosolids to land). If so, under what conditions, e.g. quality / contaminants? plant nutrient availability? spreading according to crop nutrient requirements? CE or National fertiliser certification ?
  • should “reuse” and “recycling” be addressed differently depending on context: size of wastewater treatment works, regional context …
  • should quality/functional requirements be specified for recovered nutrient products?
  • other questions proposed by meeting participants.

* The UWWTD Directive revision is currently under discussion by the European Parliament and Council European Parliament. European Parliament and Council. Both have finalised their positions on this Directive revision, see eNews n°80. Both maintain the principle of targets for phosphorus reuse and recycling, but Council proposed to delete nitrogen from this art. 20. It is expected that the finalised UWWTD Directive will be formally adopted early 2024.
13th March 2024: policy tools to support market pull for recycled nutrients
14th March: proposing UWWT Directive targets for P and N recovery, ESPP policy workshop
Both: Brussels & online. Registration is open www.phosphorusplatform.eu/nutrientevents2024    

If you wish to present proposals, positions or evidence at the 14th March meeting: please send a brief outline of your proposed input by 21st January 2024 to

Policy

German Environment Ministers’ conference calls for implementation of P-recovery

Conference of German States (Land) of Environment Ministers reaffirms the importance of phosphorus recovery and  expresses concern that little progress has been made towards the 2029 deadline fixed by German legislation. The Umweltministerkonferenz resolution 1st December 2023 underlines the importance of sustainable management of phosphorus and estimates that P in sewage could potentially substitute nearly half of Germany’s P fertiliser consumption. However, six years after the entry into force of the German sewage sludge ordinance (AbfKlärV, 27th September 2017, see SCOPE Newsletter n°129) requiring phosphorus recovery from sewage, few P-recovery plants are identified and the 2029 implementation deadline may be widely not achieved. The resolution notes that obstacles include insufficient maturity of P-recovery technologies and lack of State regulations enabling passing of P-recovery costs on to wastewater fees. The Ministers call for an operator and stakeholder dialogue in 2024, with the German Phosphorus Platform, to identify obstacles to implementation and solutions, for modifications of regulations to allow passing on of costs and for State support for infrastructure. The Ministers also consider that the German Fertilisers Ordinance should be modified to facilitate the use of sewage-sludge derived phosphorus products in fertilisers when pollutants have been reduced.

Umweltministerkonferenz, 1 December 2023, Münster, agenda points TPO 20 and TOP 21 “Phosphor-Rückgewinnung aus Klärschlamm” https://www.umwelt.nrw.de/presse/detail/ergebnisse-der-101-umweltministerkonferenz-1701431976

EU-funded R&D into Circular Economy outcomes are mainly publications

Analysis of EU-funded Circular Economy R&D projects shows science publications are the main short-term outcome. Analysed projects completed more than one year earlier produced no direct methodologies and no market products. The study notes that Circular Economy R&D is funded under a wide range on EU programmes (Research Framework Programmes, Bio-based Industries Consortium, Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking, LIFE, BlueInvest – maritime & aquaculture, Structural and Investment Funds, Recovery Plan for Europe, …). The study identifies 38 projects funded under the EU R&D Framework Programmes FP7 or Horizon Europe, of which 12 had been completed more than one year earlier (6 responded to a questionnaire). The study conclusions state that EU R&D Framework projects are fulfilling their purpose because they are “increasingly societal challenges-driven and market oriented” but this is supported by conjecture or inference rather than evidence. Project participants are c. 44% companies (220) and c.38% research / universities with the remainder being public bodies (the distribution of subsidy funds between participants is not indicated and may be different): companies presumably expected to obtain some benefit from participation, be it subsidies, skills transfer, know-how or technology. The analysed studies completed more than a year ago resulted in no “direct methodologies and/or products for the market”.

“On the societal impact of publicly funded Circular Bioeconomy research in Europe”, A.S. Brandao et al.,  Research Evaluation, 2023, 00, 1–17 DOI.

Proposed dental amalgam ban will reduce mercury levels in sewage and water bodies

The European Commission has proposed to further restrict uses of mercury, with a complete ban of dental amalgam (use, manufacture) and further restrictions on certain types of lamps. Dental amalgam (containing mercury) was already banned for certain populations (children, pregnant and breast-feeding women) in 2017 (art. 10, Mercury Regulation 2017/852, see ESPP eNews n°6). The Commission now proposes (2023/0272 (COD)) to ban all use and manufacture of dental amalgam in Europe from 1st January 2025. Mercury free alternatives exist. Eureau, the EU water industry federation, welcomes the Commission proposal as contributing to reduce water pollution and facilitate the Circular Economy, indicating that over 40% of water bodies in Europe are not achieving Water Framework Directive “good status” because of mercury contamination. In Sweden, Norway and Denmark, where dental amalgam was banned two decades ago, mercury levels in sewage have fallen by 60%. The amalgam ban will also progressively reduce atmospheric mercury emissions from crematoria.

European Commission proposal for a Regulation “amending Regulation (EU) 2017/852 … on mercury as regards dental amalgam and other mercury-added products subject to manufacturing, import and export restrictions”, 14th July 2023, COM(2023) 395 final - 2023/0272 (COD). This proposal is currently with the European Parliament and Council for co-decision. Procedure file here.

EU JRC Seville recruitment offers – Sustainable Industry

The European Commission has opened recruitment for six project officers to work at JRC Seville on Industrial Emissions Directive BAT BREFs and in the new INCITE (EU Innovation Centre for Industrial Transformation & Emissions), 3 – 6 year contracts in the EIPPCB (European Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Bureau). IED BAT BREFs cited include mining, livestock rearing, landfills, battery manufacture, iron-steel, cement, chemicals, paper, glass.

EU JRC recruitment open to 31st January 2024 http://recruitment.jrc.ec.europa.eu/?site=SVQ


Phosphorus Recycling 

Ostara’s Crystal Green: first recovered struvite to obtain EU FPR CE-mark

Ostara has completed EU Fertilising Product Regulation (FPR) conformity assessment for its 100% recycled phosphate struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate) recovered from municipal sewage in Madrid and in The Netherlands. This is the first time a recovered phosphate salt (CMC12) has obtained the EU FPR CE-mark. Ostara’s struvite, marketed as Crystal Green, is pure struvite 5-28-0-16MgO fertiliser, which is considered to release nutrients according to crop requirements, independent of rainfall or irrigation, unlike conventional fertilisers. The FPR conformity assessment was undertaken for Ostara by Certrust (notified body). Ostara indicate that the EU FPR CE-mark now opens the way for Organic Farming certification. The EU Organic Farming Regulation (2023/121, January 2023, see ESPP eNews n°73) authorises use of recovered struvite and precipitated phosphate salts as fertilisers in Organic Farming, only if they “meet the requirements laid down in” the EU FPR.

“Ostara is proud to be the first company in the European Community to successfully pass the conformity assessment procedure of the EU fertilizing Product regulation for a 100% fully recovered struvite fertilizer”, 6 December 2023.

Further pilot trial announced for ViviMag® iron phosphate recovery

Kemira and Royal Haskoning DHV have announced further trials of vivianite (iron(II) phosphate) magnetic recovery from municipal sewage sludge at Hoensbroek municipal sewage works (Waterschapsbedrijf Limburg WBL The Netherlands). The ViviMag process was initially developed by WETSUS and TU Delft and is today a Kemira patented technology. Anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge tends to reduce iron(III) phosphate to vivianite, which can be magnetically separated from sludge and recovered. A first manual 1 m3/h ViviMag pilot for magnetic separation of vivianite was operated at Nieuwveer; The Netherlands in 2019, then a 1 m3/h fully automated continuous pilot was built by Kemira. It was first operated by Veolia at Schönebeck, Germany (2022) with a digested sludge and a second trial then took place at VCS Søndersø, Denmark on a non-digested sludge in first half of 2023. This pilot installation has today been operated for a total of around 6 months with continuous operation for up to 7 days. The objective of the Kemira – Royal Haskoning DHV collaboration is to further test and assess the ViviMag technology at another WWTP in the Netherlands. This new trial has just started and will last at least 6 months. The vivianite may find a market as a niche fertiliser product in regions where soils suffer from iron deficiency, or research is underway to possibly develop a process to separate phosphorus in vivianite from iron, so enabling phosphorus recycling into mainstream phosphate fertilisers, and recycling of the iron for reuse in sewage phosphorus removal - Another option being explored is use of vivianite as a raw material to product lithium iron phosphate for use in batteries, if it can be shown that this is chemically efficient and that impurity levels are compatible with battery electronics specifications.

“Kemira and Royal HaskoningDHV to collaborate in award-winning phosphorus recovery technology”, 12th December 2023.
“Wastewater: recover vivianite mineral, from lab to pilot scale - with Wetsus partner”, 5th December 2023

EU funding for roll out of agronomic biostimulant recycled from human urine

Toopi Organics, a French startup, will receive 8.4 M€ EU funding to develop their Lactopi Start microbial biostimulant, produced by cultivating specific bacteria using separately collected human urine as substrate. In 2023, Toopi Organics collected and processed around 500 000 litres of urine from sites including motorway service stations, tourist attraction sites, city public toilets and music festivals and events. The funding is EU Horizon (European Innovation Council EIC Accelerator) with 2.4 M€ subsidy and 6 M capital. Over 100 field trials of the product will be carried out across six EU member states and Toopi Organics intends to open a full-scale production site near Bordeaux, France in 2025 (objective one million litres/year litres of product per year, sufficient for application to e.g. 40 000 ha @ 25l/ha) followed by further sites in France and/or Belgium. The urine is filtered to remove pathogens and most organic contaminants. The processed urine is used as fermentation substrate to grow specific lactobacillus microorganisms and lactic acid, both of which act as biostimulants, enhancing crop nutrient uptake by solubilising phosphorus present in soil and improving and stimulating the plant root system. The resulting product does contain some nutrients, but does not claim fertilisation (nutrient supply) as a mode of action. The company indicates that the product meets the EU FPR (Fertilising Products Regulation) PFC 6(A) “Microbial plant biostimulant” criteria (stimulation effect on plant nutrition independent of product nutrient content, contaminant and pathogen limits) but cannot today be registered as an FPR CE-mark product because the cultivated lactic acid bacteria is not listed in CMC7. The product is authorised under national regulations in France, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

“Toopi Organics décroche un financement de 8,4M€ pour développer la valorisation agricole de l’urine humaine en Europe”, 14th November 2023 here.

Safe use of recycled phosphates in animal feed

EasyMining webinar with veterinary and agricultural experts suggests that calcium phosphates recovered from sewage sludge incineration ashes could be safely and effectively used in animal feed, if regulatory obstacles were lifted
Beth Young, Epidemiologist, Swedish National Veterinary Institute (SVA), presented a risk assessment for pathogens for calcium phosphates recovered from sewage sludge incineration ash by EasyMining’s Ash2Phos process. This recovered phosphorus has been shown to perform just as well as commercial phosphate feed additives, providing digestible phosphorus in trials with pigs and chickens (see SLU animal feed trials study results). The risk assessment considered probability of transmission of ‘worst case’ pathogens (prions for BSE – scrapie) in the stages: presence in sewage sludge, incineration of sludge, Ash2Phos ash processing. No data was found on prions in sewage sludge, two studies suggest that spiked prions survive in sludge, but low levels of prion infections in livestock and actions to reduce risks mean that the probability of prion presence in sewage is negligible. Probability that prions survive sewage sludge incineration is very low. The probability that prions survive the Ash2Phos process (acid, alkali, filtration, lime) is considered negligible. Overall the probability that bacteria, viruses or prions could be transmitted by the recovered phosphate is negligible, although there are knowledge gaps for prions.

Kerstin Sigfridson, Product Developer, Lantmännen, Swedish farmers’ cooperative, with 18 000 farmers, providing 1 Mt/y of animal feed, that is around 50% of Swedish livestock. Lantmännen has ambitious sustainability and innovation objectives, including active work on livestock diets. Lantmännen considers that the use of recycled phosphates offers sustainability benefits and that the Ash2Phos recovered phosphate has shown the same digestibility as commercial phosphate feed additives (DCP) and is safe to use.

Sara Stiernstörm. Product Manager, EasyMining, explained that the Ash2Phos recovered phosphate (RevoCaP precipitated calcium phosphate) offers CO2 benefits and low contaminants compared to commercial feed phosphates and is fully soluble in citric acid (digestible). It contains around 35% Ca and 17% P. Ash2Phos can recover >90% of the phosphorus in ash, as well as recycling iron, aluminium and sand. Two full scale plants are today planned, both 30 000 t-ash/y, in Schkopau, Germany (with Gelsenwasser), commissioning planned 2027 and Helsingborg Sweden, planned 2028. However, there is today a major regulatory obstacle: the animal feed Regulation 767/2009 prohibits use of products from sewage sludge. This needs to be changed. EasyMining wishes to see: P-recycling from sewage to be made obligatory, sewage sludge incineration ash should be considered a safe starting point, product legislation should be based on quality not on input material origin, and incentives should support the use of clean and safe recycled materials.

Webinar “Safe use of recycled phosphate”, 14th December 2023, organised by EasyMining (Ragn-Sells Group). Watch here.
Webinar “Improving sustainability of livestock production”, 3rd February 2022, watch here.

Aquaculture, algae, fisheries

Legal status for nutrient recycling from fish manure, algae, seafood, aquaculture

ESPP will meet the European Commission to discuss nutrient recycling from marine and aquaculture in week 3 of January 2024. We have prepared a draft table to summarise legal status and questions and welcome your input. This draft table covers different marine / aquaculture / algae materials under EU legislations: waste, fertilisers, animal by-products, Organic Farming, animal feed. Please send any input, comments or additions concerning nutrient and organics recycling from fish and marine product processing, aquaculture wastes and fish sludge, algae production, in particular where regulations are today unclear or are posing obstacles to the Circular Economy.

ESPP draft table on legal status of nutrient recycling from aquaculture and fisheries wastes and by-products, for comments. www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory

Review: nutrient recycling from fisheries and aquaculture

Overview shows significant, increasing nutrient recycling potential from fish processing wastes and from aquaculture, but need to address regulatory obstacles and absences and to develop technologies adapted for different waste flows. Aquaculture production increased from 20 to 90 Mt/y worldwide over three decades to 2020, and today represents around half of world seafood and fish production. Processing waste can be 55 - 75 % of fish weight. Fish sludge, made up of water, fish feed, fish faeces and biomass from dead fish or other organisms, can represent c. 1.5 t sludge /t fish produced. Nutrient content of fish sludge varies widely, depending particularly on feed supply. Around 2/3 of P in fish feed is left in fish sludge not recovered in the fish. Solid fraction of fish sludge can contain e.g. 0.0015 – 0.03 % of P and N, so that nutrient recycling generally requires concentration. A number of studies are identified as showing effectiveness of fishery wastes or fertilising materials processed from them. Processed discussed for fishery processing wastes or fish sludge include anaerobic digestion, fermentation, composting, struvite recovery, thermal treatment and pyrolysis, emulsion (oil extraction and caking), drying, hydrolysis. Fish protein hydrolysates and chitin/chitosan from crustaceans are considered to be plant biostimulants as well as providing plant nutrients. Recycling is impacted by a range of EU regulations including Industrial Emissions Directive, waste regulations, Animal By-Products, food hygiene and health, fertilisers and Organic Farming. However, products derived from fishery wastes, by-products or aquaculture sludge are not yet included as a CMC category in the EU Fertilising Products Regulation 2019/1009. Attention should be paid to salinity.

“Nutrient recovery and recycling from fishery waste and by-products”, EU Horizon 2020 Sea2Land project, J. Zhang et al., J. Environmental Management Volume 348, 15 December 2023, 119266 DOI.

Research

Sewage sludge treatment in Czech Republic and in Japan

Paper analyses sewage sludge valorisation routes and fate of sewage phosphorus in Czech Republic and in Japan. More than three quarters of Czech sewage sludge is applied to soil (use in agriculture, compost), 12% is co-incinerated and 7% still goes to landfill. In Japan only around 11% of sewage sludge is applied to soil, with most going to combustion (71% incineration, but also use as fuel in cement production and other thermal processing), with <1% going to landfill. Phosphorus content of sewage sludge in both countries (from literature) was 2.4 – 3.4 %P/DM, with higher P contents in digested sludge (this can be expected, because organic carbon is reduced in the digestion process). The paper estimates that in both countries, phosphorus in sewage could replace around 13 – 16 % of mineral phosphate fertiliser use, but does not take into consideration the fact that three quarters of Czech sewage sludge phosphorus is today input to soils with land application, mostly after anaerobic digestion or composting. The paper suggests that sewage sludge does not provide the same phosphorus effectiveness in crops as commercial fertilisers: two papers are cited to support this: Christiansen 2020 and Lemming 2017).

“Precovery versus current sewage sludge treatment policy in the Czech Republic and Japan”, M. Husek et al., 2023, Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy DOI.

Netherlands wastewater nutrient recycling project KNAP

New national project led by Wageningen University and Research will look at recycling of nutrients from sewage, separative sanitation, and agri-food wastewaters including dairy, brewery, sugar and potato industries. Focus is on producing recycled fertilisers for use in arable farming, feed crops cultivation, (circular) horticulture and organic farming. The 2023-2026 project involves Wageningen Environmental Research (WENR), KWR, LeAF, the Netherlands Nutrient Platform, as well as waste & water companies, agriculture and horticulture organisations, fertiliser industry, (recycling) technology suppliers and local and regional authorities. Objectives include implementation of nutrient recycling and valorisation cases, development of a quality system for recycled nutrient products from wastewaters, data on nutrient flows and losses, assessment of the agronomic value of recovered nutrient products and analysis of regulatory barriers.

Public-Private Collaboration (PPS) project Closing the cycle of nutrients from wastewater and process water (KNAP)” website. 

Stay informed

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ESPP members

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13th March 2024 - Policy tools to support market pull for recycled nutrients

Meeting objectives

Identify policy tools to support market pull for recycled nutrients which could achieve consensus across industry and users.

The EU Green Deal 2019 mentions possible “legal requirements to boost the market for secondary raw materials, with mandatory recycled content” and the EU Circular Economy Action Plan 2020 refers to “stimulating the markets for recovered nutrients”. To date, there are no EU proposals.

Industry and user positions on possible market pull policy tools can differ. The aim of this meeting is to identify policies which could achieve consensus across recycled product producers (waste companies, recycling technology suppliers), industry and uses (fertilisers industries, distributers, farmers). And to discuss how to elaborate technical proposals to submit to policy makers.

14th March 2024 - Proposing UWWT Directive targets for P and N recovery 

Meeting objectives

To elaborate ambitious, feasible and consensus proposals for regulatory targets for phosphorus and nitrogen reuse-recycling from municipal wastewater.

This workshop aims to develop consensus proposals, to submit to the European Commission, and will discuss:

  • what are feasible “rates” for P and for N recovery?
  • how should these “rates” be defined? … as % of wwtp inflow? … as % in sludge? … as % in ash? … as recovery of P or N down to a certain residual level (per p.e.)? … other …?
  • should the “rates” be different for wwtps of different size? different configuration? Before or after sludge energy valorisation / combustion ?
  • definition of “reuse and recycling”? … Should this include treated sludge use in agriculture (biosolids to land). If so, under what conditions, e.g. quality / contaminants? plant nutrient availability? spreading according to crop nutrient requirements? CE or National fertiliser certification ?
  • should “reuse” and “recycling” be addressed differently depending on context: size of wastewater treatment works, regional context …
  • should quality/functional requirements should be specified for recovered nutrient products?
  • other questions proposed by meeting participants

Programmes: click here

 

 

Registration

Available on Eventbrite.

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

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Dates 2023

ESPP dates for 2024
SOFIE3
Standards & definitions for “Bio-Based” nutrients

Policy
EU support study for Sewage Sludge Directive published
EU evaluation of the Nitrates Directive
EU Critical Raw Materials Act trilogue compromise
Call for input for evaluation of EU Fertilising Products Regulation
Finland publishes new national fertilisers regulation
EU Fertilisers Expert Group
EU fertilisers market data portal

ESPP Member news
N2 Applied – GEA Manure Enricher roll out
Ragn-Sells “10 Billion Challenge”
Fertilizers Europe launches Roadmap for climate neutral fertilisers by 2050
German Phosphorus Platform GA, annual Forum and research sponsorship

Events
Role of plant biostimulants in farmers adaptation to climate change

Research into new routes to P4
Carbothermal reduction of phosphoric acid
Attempts to recover P from iron industry wastes
Electrolysis of phosphate rock in molten calcium chloride
Electrolysis of molten condensed phosphate salts
Tutorial review on organo-phosphorus chemistry and applications

Stay informed

ESPP members

 

 

Dates 2023

  • 6-8 Dec 2023: Cambridge UK – International Fertilisers Society IFS conference, crop nutrition and fertiliser production
  • 11 Dec. 2023: 14h-17h CET, Brussels & online – European Commission workshop - How to boost consumer demand of bio-based materials and products
  • 14 Dec. 2023: 14h30-16h30 CET ESPP General Assembly (online) – ESPP members/partners have received link – if not contact
  • 14 Dec 2024: 13h-14h30 CET - EasyMining webinar on recycled phosphates for animal feed

ESPP dates for 2024

  • 16-17 Jan. 2024: Brussels & online SOFIE3 (Organic and Organo-Mineral Fertilisers)
    (with Eurofema, Fertilizers Europe, International Fertiliser Society and SILC Fertilizzanti)
  • 18 Jan. 2024: Brussels & online “Bio-Based” nutrients - standards & definitions
  • 26-28 Feb. 2024: Warsaw CRU Phosphates 2024 ESPP panel on sustainable fertilisers
  • 12-14 March 2024: Brussels & online ESPP workshops on Nutrient recycling policy
    - targets for nutrient recovery under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive revision
    - policy tools to support market pull for recycled nutrients
  • 16-17 April 2024: Brussels & online NERM Nutrients in Europe Research Meeting
    (with Fertimanure, Lex4Bio, Walnut, Sea2Land, Rustica) – call for abstracts extended to 10th December 2023
  • 8-10 October 2024: Lleida, Spain ESPC5 (5th European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference)

SOFIE3

sofie 2024 thumb3rd Summit of Organic and organo-mineral Fertiliser Industries in Europe.
16-17 January 2024, Brussels & hybrid.
SOFIE is the only industry meeting place for organic-carbon-based fertiliser producers, distributors, advisory, technology suppliers. SOFIE1 (2019) attracted 125 participants, with 230 for SOFIE2 (2023). Programme now online. Organic fertiliser company showcase pitches are welcome.

Programme www.phosphorusplatform.eu/SOFIE. Registration Eventbrite

Standards & definitions for “Bio-Based” nutrients

Brussels & hybrid, 18th January 2024 Defining “Bio-Based Fertilisers” and FPR “solely biological origin”

enews80 2The term “Bio-Based Fertilisers” is today being widely used. For market transparency and policy making. It is important to have a clear and agreed definition of what is a “Bio-Based Fertiliser” and how to define the “Bio-Based” nutrient content of fertilising products. Also, the EU Fertilising Products Regulation 2019/2009 uses the term “of solely biological origin” for nutrients in criteria of several PFCs and there is today no clarity on how this should be interpreted. CEN and ISO methodologies for “Bio-based products: vocabulary” and for defining bio-based content are based on carbon radio-dating, and are not applicable to nutrients.

The meeting will take as starting point the working proposal HERE. Programme: http://phosphorusplatform.eu/BBF2024 Registration Eventbrite

 

Policy

EU support study for Sewage Sludge Directive published

European Commission “feasibility study” considers two sewage sludge management options: 1 = ongoing land use of treated sludge with tighter monitoring and contaminant limits; 2 =mandatory sludge incineration with P-recovery. The study rejects options for ongoing sewage sludge land use without EU regulatory contaminant limits. The study does not select a preferred option of the two considered because of uncertainties about levels of contaminants and related risk, and with the aim of enabling further stakeholder input. The scenario (1) proposes that sewage sludge from larger sewage works applied in agriculture must qualify under the EU Fertilising Products Regulation and that other quality requirements would be applicable to sludge from smaller sewage works used in agriculture or forestry etc. (p31), and also that all sludge used on land should be applied according to crop phosphorus needs and with good management practice requirements (p34).

The study indicates that the EU generates just over 8 Mt/y dry matter (DM) of sewage sludge of which c. 32% is incinerated (based on Eurostat 2021). 10% of EU sewage sludge still goes to landfill, resulting in significant methane emissions.

Table 1 (p8) shows that heavy metal limits are generally lower in current Member State national legislation than in the EU Sewage Sludge Directive (which dates from 1986 and has not been updated), and also that the lowest national heavy metal limits for sewage sludge are in all cases lower than EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR) limits (for Organic Fertiliser / Organic Soil Improvers). The average observed heavy metal levels in sewage sludge are also lower than the EU FPR limits for all eight metal contaminants considered. However, JRC note concerns about other chemicals potentially found in sewage sludge, including industrial chemicals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, personal care chemicals, PFAS, microplastics, and consider (p26) that risk assessments of these chemicals in sludge are inadequate, in particular because they do not take into account local context and combination effects of chemicals in sludge.

The study suggests (p 19-20) that benefits to society are highest for mono-incineration of sewage sludge with phosphorus recovery (option 1). Use of composted or digested sewage sludge in agriculture has net positive benefits (assuming tight contaminant limits and application of nutrients according to crop requirements and not in excess) but significantly lower than for option 1, whereas co-incineration (phosphorus not recovered) has negative net societal impacts and landfilling has strongly negative societal impacts. On the other hand the cost of mono-incineration (option 2) is estimated to be 2-3 x higher than agriculture application (option 1).

Organic carbon returned to soil by use of treated sewage sludge is not considered significant (fig. 5 p 11, p 35) compared to manure and bio-waste.

Short-term agronomic P-efficiency is considered to be higher in mineral P-fertiliser products recovered from sewage sludge incineration ash than in agricultural application of sewage sludge, so leading to lower expected nutrient losses in scenario 2 (p 43-44).

Option 2 (mono-incineration and P-recovery from sewage sludge incineration ash) is estimated to result in additional annualised total EU costs (Capex plus Opex, compared to agricultural sludge application) of 138 – 569 million € per year, depending on the  size of sewage works above which this is mandated (138 M€ if sewage works > 500 000 p.e. – 569 M€ if > 20 000 p.e.). If mandated for sewage works > 50 000 p.e. estimated additional cost is 1.4 – 3.3 €/person/year, that is 1-3% of wastewater treatment costs. Correspondingly, option 2 ( > 50 000 p.e.) would generate 3 000 – 4 200 full time job equivalents across Europe.

The study underlines that cost to operators of societally positive sludge management options are higher than for options with negative societal impacts, so that policy action is therefore necessary.

ESPP will make comments to JRC on the content, methodology and conclusions of this study, probably in early 2024. Any input to these comments is welcome, to ESPP by end 2023.

“Feasibility study in support of future policy developments of the Sewage Sludge Directive (86/278/EEC)”, European Commission, JRC Science for Policy Report, L. Egle et al., 2023 https://dx.doi.org/10.2760/305263

 

EU evaluation of the Nitrates Directive

European Commission opens public consultation for evaluation of the Nitrates Directive, citing climate, food security, sustainability, nutrient recycling and the commitment to reduce nutrient losses by 50% by 2030. The evaluation will assess if the Directive remains “fit for purpose”, if it is coherent with EU environmental objectives, whether cost and administration burdens can be reduced. The consultation (in 27 languages) is 16 questions plus possibilities for comments or to submit documents. The accompanying “Call for Evidence” specifically notes the question of whether the Directive is sufficiently promoting the recycling of nutrients, including from processed manure, and the EU commitment at COP15 (Convention on Biological Biodiversity) to reduce nutrient losses by 50% by 2030. Phosphates (which are not mentioned in the current Nitrates Directive text) are mentioned in the online introduction to the questionnaire, but not in the questionnaire, not in the Call for Evidence. Recycling of nutrients is cited in Q2.7. Measures to limit inappropriate manure spreading and the 170 kgN/ha manure nitrogen limit are cited in Qs 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 3.9. Addressing intensive livestock production is cited in Qs 3.1, 3.9. Questions address which Nitrates Directive measures are effective (Nitrate vulnerable Zones, Action Programmes, manure storage, manure spreading limit … Q3.2) and relevance to Water Framework Directive Good Ecological Status and to the 50% nutrient loss reduction objective (both Q3.12).

“The protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources – Evaluation”, public consultation preparatory to evaluation of the EU Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC) and Call for Evidence. Input requested from the public, farmers, stakeholders. Open to 8th March 2024. In all EU languages. HERE.

EU Critical Raw Materials Act trilogue compromise

Political agreement between Council and Parliament adds only aluminium to the “Strategic” materials list. Phosphorus is not added to the ‘Strategic’ materials list but remains on the ‘Critical’ raw materials list. The ‘Strategic’ list is 16 raw materials identified as supply-critical for ‘strategic technologies’ defined as “green and digital transitions … defence and space applications”. Both phosphate rock and “phosphorus” (meaning P4 = white phosphorus) remain on the EU list of “Critical” raw materials (34 materials). Graphite, already on the “Strategic” list, is extended to both synthetic and natural graphite. The trilogue agreement is not public. It will lead to detailed compromise amendments which then go back to European Parliament and Council for validation votes. To ESPP’s understanding, only “Strategic” materials are concerned by the main tools of the CRM Act (EU sourcing, processing and recycling targets; Strategic Projects) but all “Critical” raw materials will benefit from monitoring of supply and uses, programmes to develop recovery and recycling, and stress tests every three years.

European Commission: “Commission welcomes political agreement on the Critical Raw Materials Act”, 13th November 2023.
Council: “Council and Parliament strike provisional deal to reinforce the supply of critical raw materials”, 13th November 2023.

 Call for input for evaluation of EU Fertilising Products Regulation

DG GROW asks for input on which issues to consider in preparing the upcoming evaluation of the EU Fertilising Products Regulation. The Commission notes that the evaluation must be completed by July 2026 and expects to assess impacts on markets, trade and companies, health and environment (levels of cadmium and of other contaminants) and at the wider context as to whether the Regulation brings added value compared to national fertiliser regulations. Comments are invited in particular as to what aspects should be assessed concerning markets and definitions of PFCs, coherence of the FPR, interactions with REACH, Animal By-Produces Regulations, Nitrates Directive, Farm-to-Fork Strategy, conformity assessment procedures, contaminants, effectiveness of the FPR and interactions with national regulations, or to indicate other questions which should be considered in the evaluation. Comments can be submitted only via members of the EU Fertilisers Expert Group (inc. ESPP).

Deadline for comments is 31st December, so please send any comments you wish ESPP to submit to ESPP before mid December.

 

Finland publishes new national fertilisers regulation

Finland’s new national fertiliser regulation defines criteria for different fertiliser types and inputs, covering composts, digestates, biochars and ashes. Sewage and industrial sludges are authorised for use in agriculture and in biochars, subject to specified conditions. This Finland national regulation enables fertilisers to be sold in Finland, not on the EU market. The overall structure and product and input families show similarities to the EU Fertilising Products Regulation, with product categories and component materials, but criteria are in some cases stricter or different, and are less comprehensive. Sewage sludge can be included in biochars subject to minimum 500°C x 5 minutes pyrolysis, and subject to the criteria defined for all biochars. Sewage sludge after certain other specified treatments (e.g; specified composted, digested, limed, aged) can be used in agriculture with limitations of quantities (per five years) and subject to analysis of metals in soil. Combustion ashes are authorised under conditions, with specific conditions for forest ash (minimum K and P contents). Cadmium limits at 22 mgCd/kgP2O5 (= 50 mgCd/kgP) are the same as those in the existing 2006 EU derogation for Finland (see ESPP eNews n°59): this derogation allows Finland to limit cadmium not only in national fertilisers but also in EU fertilisers sold in Finland. It is ESPP’s understanding that authorisation of a material under this national regulation authorises use in agriculture but does not give End-of-Waste status.

Finland national fertilisers regulation 964/2023, 6th October 2023 (Maa- ja metsätalousministeriön asetus)

EU Fertilisers Expert Group

Meeting updated on: EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR) evaluation, product Conformity Assessment, standards development, FAQ guidance document, animal by-products (“Processed Manure”), CMCs, biodegradability criteria …

ESPP participated in the European Commission official fertilisers working group meeting 28-29 November. The summary below is not officially validated and is provided for information only, and may contain inaccuracies.

Giel Tettelaer (ECFI), chair of the Notified Bodies coordination group, explained work underway on CE-product certification (Conformity Assessment) processes, including challenges of how to rationalise audit of multiple decentralised sites supplying recycled materials and how to apply “batch” audit requirements to liquid flows.

An updated list of standards under development to support the FPR was circulated here. New standards needed for animal by-products and “Processed Manure” in CE-fertilisers are not yet mandated because CEN does not have sufficient human resources to take these on.

A number of additional question-answers were validated for the living Commission FAQ guidance document (here). Questions concerning the use of plants as inputs to “production processes“ in CMC15, the definition of “nutrients … of solely biological origin”, animal by-products, sewage sludge were not resolved pending further discussion.

Biodegradability criteria for fertiliser polymers, mulches, etc. are pending finalisation (following the AIMPLAS report here) and should be published for public consultation in January 2024.

The Delegated Act amending the FPR to enable used of “Processed Manure” (as defined in the Animal By-Products Regulation) is finalised here and is expected to be published in coming months. ESPP requested clarification in the FAQ guidance document concerning application for manures used as inputs for composts, digestates, ashes and pyrolysis materials (biochars) when the ABP process criteria can be achieved simultaneous with the FPR CMC process criteria. An external consultant (QLab, Greece) has been commissioned by the Commission to carry out studies on other Cat 2-3 animal by-products cited in the DG SANTE ABP Regulation amendment 2023/1605 prior to integrating these into the FPR CMC10.

NMI, The Netherlands, has been contracted by the Commission to study possible new CMC materials or changes to CMC processing and other criteria. This study will centre on the materials and requests submitted to the survey (ESPP eNews n°69) A second study is being contracted to assess additional biostimulant microorganisms.

NMI presented work underway (interim report for comment and input) to develop guidance on Technical Documentation to support Conformity Assessment, including an IT support tool.

Input was requested by the Commission to identify questions for evaluation of the EU Fertilising Products Regulation (see above).

The 3rd SOFIE (Summit of the Organic Fertilisers Industry in Europe), 16-17 January, Brussels and online, will offer opportunities to discuss these different points, for organic-carbon based fertilisers: SOFIE.
EU Fertilisers Expert Group documents (CIRCABC public) HERE.

EU fertilisers market data portal

European Commission launches fertilisers pages on the EU Agri-food Data Portal. Industry and stakeholder comments are welcome. This follows the commitment, in the Commission Communication on fertiliser supply and price (November 2022, see ESPP eNews n°72), to improve data access. The newly launched fertiliser sector pages on the EU Agri-food Data Portal present data and visualisations on fertiliser price trends (by month, average prices aggregated by nutrient N, P and K), fertiliser production in Europe (by fertiliser type and raw material, by Member State, per year) and fertiliser trade (import export, by Member State and trade partners, by fertiliser type and raw material, per month). Statistics on fertiliser production and trade are also available for a selected number of products. The data shown suggests that phosphorus fertiliser prices increased by nearly 4x from 2020 to early 2022, before falling back, with today’s prices still nearly 2x the 2020 level. Phosphate fertiliser production in the EU is indicated to be 500 000 – 700 000 t-fertiliser/year since around 2011, with main producers since 2016 being Poland, Italy and France. However, if “mixed” fertilisers are also included, the production is much higher (c. 12 000 t-fertiliser/year) with main producing countries Finland, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Italy, Greece, France.

European Commission Agri-food date portal: Fertiliser https://agridata.ec.europa.eu/extensions/DataPortal/fertiliser.html
See also: Fertilisers (europa.eu) and European Commission call for experts for EU Fertilisers Market Observatory in ESPP eNews n°74.


ESPP Member news

enews 81 geaN2 Applied – GEA Manure Enricher roll out

Plasma nitrogen fixing and stabilisation technology from N2 Applied, rolled out with GEA, is nominated for the Boerenbusiness Agribusiness Awards 2023 and is now rolled out into Germany in addition to installations in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, UK. The first installation in Germany, rolled by GEA, is treating dairy manure digestate on a farm in Meschede, Northern Germany.

Boerenbusiness Agribusiness award: https://www.boerenbusiness.nl/award/genomineerden
N2 Applied news: https://n2applied.com/latestnews/

 

 

Ragn-Sells “10 Billion Challenge”

How will we feed ten billion people in the world ? Ragn-Sells calls for action on nutrient recycling. Food waste could feed 1 ¼ billion. Recycling of sewage nutrients is essential to sustain food production and reduce environmental impacts. Ragn-Sells state that without phosphorus and nitrogen inputs, agricultural crop production would be cut by half. The company is developing nutrient recycling with EasyMining technology for phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium recovery from sewage, aquaculture wastes and municipal waste incineration ash. “We want to accelerate change, scale circular models and create synergies that reward innovative companies.”

Ragn-Sells 10 Billion Challenge “Changing food together” https://www.10billionchallenge.org/

Fertilizers Europe launches Roadmap for climate neutral fertilisers by 2050

The European fertilisers industry fixes ambitions to reduce GHG emissions 70% by 2040 and to net-zero by 2050 through decarbonising existing fertiliser technologies and green hydrogen for ammonia. Decarbonising strategies include electrolysis, carbon capture and storage and biomethane. Green ammonia is produced with hydrogen from electrolysis using renewable energy. Estimated costs include 17 billion € for electrolysers, 3 billion € for hydrogen pipelines and 64 billion € to supply green electricity from offshore wind. The roadmap underlines the need for varied approaches adapted to specific local contexts (logistics, infrastructure, raw materials, energy …). Five prerequisites are identified as access to competitive green energy, boosting market demand for climate-neutral fertilisers (through a labelling system accompanied by a mandatory purchasing target for all EU nitrogen fertiliser purchasers), de-risk support for early investments, protection against unfair competition from imported fertilisers (Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism) and a legal and funding framework. The roadmap documents point to the need for “availability of nutrients for recycling” and for an industry strategy combining organic and mineral nutrients, nutrient recycling, improved nutrient efficiency fertilisers, soil organic matter and carbon farming. The roadmap was launched by Fertilizers Europe at an event in Brussels, 14th November 2023, with 100+ participants, including a panel discussion with representatives from the European Parliament, European Commission, the fertilizers and agriculture businesses.

“Decarbonising Fertilizers by 2050 - Fertilizers Europe”, 14th November 2023 https://www.fertilizerseurope.com/decarbonising-fertilizers-by-2050/ and “Roadmap for the European Fertilizer Industry” (Guidehouse for Fertilizers Europe), 22nd September 2023.

German Phosphorus Platform GA, annual Forum and research sponsorship

The annual forum of DPP, the German Phosphorus Platform, gathered nearly 100 participants in Frankfurt and online, discussed P-recycling implementation, and awarded a new 1 000 € research prize. The day before, the DPP's general meeting took place and members elected a new board for the next two years: Simone Apitz, Hessian Ministry for the Environment, remains DPP Chair, and the Board includes members from Dechema, SWW Wundsiedel, Veolia, EasyMining, MSE and Justus Liebig University Giessen. At the DPP Forum, projects on recycled nutrients in Organic Farming (nureg4org: final report here) and on sewage sludge incineration and P-recovery capacity (Refoplan) were presented. The new DPP research prize of 1 000 € for a thesis addressing phosphorus recycling, sponsored this year by Remondis (member of DPP), was awarded to Jannik Mühlbauer (TU Dresden) for his thesis “Laboratory studies on thermochemical sewage sludge (Contact). At the end of the event, participants answered the key question "P-Recycling - stagnation or progress?" with a show of hands. The majority voted "progress". Simone Apitz appealed to all stakeholders to act now and discuss the topic across networks so that the implementation of a sustainable phosphorus economy can succeed.

DPP Forum 16th October 2023 https://www.deutsche-phosphor-plattform.de/aktuelles-forum/

 

Events

Role of plant biostimulants in farmers adaptation to climate change

Webinar, organised by the European Biostimulants Industry Council (EBIC), discusses how biostimulants can support farmers in adapting to changing environmental conditions and extreme weather events. The meeting, 8th November 2023, gathered more than 500 participants in presence and online, and was moderated by Kevin Bosc, EBIC, who introduced the challenges faced by farmers and food production companies in adapting to climate change and highlighted the importance of building resilient and sustainable food systems, presenting biostimulants as part of the solution.

Jens Boyen, Permanent Representation of Belgium to the European Union, highlighted how extreme events disrupt the food system and the food supply chain, impairing farmers’ possibility to plan their harvests, causing the spread of pests and diseases, reducing biodiversity and soil health. Many technologies are trying to face these problems, including genomic techniques to develop adapted crop varieties, biocontrol as an alternative to chemical pesticides, biostimulants to strengthen plants’ adaptation to abiotic stressors, and new types of irrigation systems. Policy actions are essential for these new tools to reach the farmers, as well as financial support, funds to research and innovation, and proper tools for risk management for farmers like insurance policies.

Felipe Cortines, a farmer from Andalucía, emphasised that the main problems faced by farmers are extreme and random climatic events and market disruptions increasing costs and threatening farmers’ profitability. In his opinion, biostimulants are a useful tool, as they are tailor-made for specific functions, although their cost is high and they are not easy to use: more knowledge and training on how to use these products are needed to make the best use of them.

Lisa Boulton, Purina PetCare (Nestlé), introduced the company’s Regenerative Agriculture initiative and work with seaweed-based biostimulants. Field trails started in the UK in 2022 to test the improvement in plant performance, including nutritional content of the grains and resistance to abiotic stress, the possibility to reduce the use of traditional fertilisers while maintaining or increasing the yield, and the impact on biodiversity and on the carbon stored in the soil. More trials planned in France, Italy and Hungary. For these solutions to be taken up, a systemic approach is needed, including incentives for farmers, regulatory frameworks, farmers’ education and relevant stakeholders’ engagement. She also presented a project where seaweed amendments and biostimulants are produced from seaweed grown on nutrients absorbed from coastal waters where excess N and P deriving from land may threaten ecosystem health.

Carlos Rodriguez-Villa Förster, EBIC, pointed out that many biostimulant products are currently not covered by the FPR, and regulatory barriers remain for some of these products to gain access to market. Policy and regulatory coherence, as well as education, training and incentivisation for farmers are required. He remarked that biostimulants are not a standalone solution but part of a broader toolbox that farmers can use, and concluded the meeting by highlighting the need to continue engaging with agri-food chain, policymakers, academia and other stakeholders to raise awareness on biostimulants and on how they can support common objectives.

"Farmers and food chain actors debate the role of plant biostimulants in helping farmers adapt to climate change": EBIC summary here.
"A seaweed aquaculture imperative to meet global sustainability targets"  Duarte et al. (2022) Nature Sustainability DOI

 

Research into new routes to P4

 

We here summarise a number of recent scientific studies proposing possible future routes to produce elemental phosphorus (P4),. Elemental phosphorus is on the EU Critical Raw Materials List, because there is today no production in Europe and the EU is dependent on imports from only 3-4 countries.

P4 is today produced by carbothermal reduction, using coke in furnaces operating at c. 1400°C, with high electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Other proposed routes to P4 are presented in

  • ESPP eNews n°64: ‘Spodophos’ process using aluminium scrap to provide energy rather than coke and operating at around 600°C.
  • ESPP eNews n°57: FlashPhos project to produce P4 from sewage sludge and other wastes by thermo-chemical reduction (University of Stuttgart, Italmatch)
  • ESPP eNews n°45: ”Replacing P4 is still in its infancy”, review of possible future processes to produce P4 (Geeson & Cummins, 2020 and 2018)

 

Carbothermal reduction of phosphoric acid

Study suggests that P4 could be produced at c. 1000°C by reducing phosphoric acid with activated carbon, instead of c. 1400°C using phosphate rock and coke. Lab-scale experiments by Yoshida, Yu et al. (reactor tube 1200 cm x diameter 32 cm) containing a layer of activated carbon and a layer of activated carbon soaked in phosphoric acid (85% acid / 15% water). With the activated carbon at c. 1000°C and the P-acid soaked carbon at c. 700°C, under argon gas, yellow phosphorus (white phosphorus = elemental P4 with some impurities) was recovered by bubbling the offgas through hot water. The authors state that the phosphoric acid is first vaporised as P4O10 then reduced to gaseous P4. In this lab experiment, after heating the reactor for several hours, around 50% of the phosphorus in the input phosphoric acid was recovered as P4.

“Yellow Phosphorus Production from Phosphoric Acid by Carbothermic Reduction”, H. Yu et al., REWAS 2022: Developing Tomorrow’s Technical Cycles (Volume I), The Minerals, Metals & Materials Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-92563-5_31

See also “Carbothermic Reduction of Phosphoric Acid Extracted from Dephosphorization Slags to Produce Yellow Phosphorus”, Int. J. Materials and Metallurgical Engineering Vol:13, No:11, 2019, summarised in ESPP eNews n°39.

This is not a new approach and was presented for example in the 2010 US patent WO 2010 / 029570 for production of elemental phosphorus (P4) from phosphoric acid and carbon. This patent notes that obstacles to achieving this are the release of water from phosphoric acid, which requires excess carbon to react with this water, and the sublimation of phosphoric acid to gaseous metaphosphates without reacting with carbon. The latter obstacle is addressed in the patent by selective different heating in different parts of the reactor.

In a more recent patent from Université Mohammed VI Polytechnique, Morocco, EP 3891099 2023, production of elemental phosphorus from phosphoric acid is proposed using different (hydrophilic) carbon sources: biomass, sewage sludge organic polymers, kerogen (geological carbon deposits). The phosphoric acid is first reacted with the carbon source (at 80 – 150°C) then carbothermal reduced at 550 – 950 °C to produce elemental phosphorus (P4).

ESPP comment: these processes may enable P4 production at a lower temperature than the existing industrial furnace route (1000°C vs. 1400°C) and possibly with lower energy consumption (no silicate slag production), but total energy consumption needs to be calculated taking into account the production and concentration of the phosphoric acid, activation of carbon, P-recovery rates, furnace design and elimination of impurities from the carbon source and from the phosphoric acid (or purification of the phosphoric acid).

Attempts to recover P from iron industry wastes

Matsubae-Yokoyama et al. have estimated that 4% of global phosphorus flows are in steel industry wastes (SCOPE Newsletter n°122). However, to date, despite a number of research publications (as ESPP sees things) there seems to be no suggestion of an effective process to recover the phosphorus in such slag, in which iron is present from which the phosphorus must be separated to so recover it in a useful form, and in which the phosphorus is at very low levels (1 – 1.5% P). Phosphorus is deliberately left in slag from existing phosphorus furnaces at concentrations of a few % in steel slag in order to avoid unwanted reactions in the furnace (silicon reduction).

Lab tests (Liu et al. 2023) seem to show failure to recover phosphorus from calcium phosphate doped iron slag: less P was recovered than was added. The “industrial converter slag” used initially contained 1% P and 25% iron. Calcium phosphate (Ca3(PO4)2) and silicon dioxide (SiO2) were added to up to 1.7, 2.6 and 3.4 %P. This was heated to 1450°C then carbon was added (to 1.5x theoretical reduction requirement) and temperature maintained for 60 minutes. At the higher calcium phosphate doping rates, the level of P in the slag remained considerably higher than in the initial (non P-doped) slag, and at the lower P addition rate, the final P concentration in the slag after one hour of reaction time was still >90% that of the initial slag P level suggesting none or nearly none of the initial slag P level was potentially recoverable (only the added calcium phosphate P was being released from the slag).

Lab tests (Tong et al. 2023) of carbothermal P-removal from converter slag show that although phosphorus is partly released as P2 gas, most of the phosphorus ends up as ferrophosphorus (PxFey). The authors indicate that China’s iron and steel industries produce around one billion t/y of converter slag, much of which ends up stockpiled as waste because it cannot be recycled back into the iron furnaces because of its chemical characteristics. Lab-scale tests (100 g batch) used converter slag with c. 1.3% P, heated at c 1500°C with coke for one hour. Nearly 30% of P was removed from the slag.

Lab tests (Wang et al. 2022) heating converter slag with coke at 1600°C with different contents of iron oxide (FeO) show that FeO up to c. 30% increases P gasification, but above this may decrease P gasification. The converter slag contained 1.3 %P. Around one third of the P in the slag was removed by gasification after one hour at 1600°C with coke with 15% FeO increasing to nearly three quarters with 30% FeO.

Lab tests (Nakase et al., 2017) possibly showed up to 50% extraction of P from steel slag by thermochemical reduction with coke at 1400°C. The trials used 100g of different steelmaking slags with graphite as reducing agent in a lab-scale induction furnace (30 minutes), with fifteen different tests (temperature 1200°C – 1400°C, initial iron content 1.7% - 16%). Phosphorus not found in different forms in the slag is assumed to have been removed as vaporised P offgas (this is not confirmed). In nearly all tests, most or all P stayed in the slag, either chemically remaining in the slag or as phosphorus droplets not separated from the slag. In one case only was a significant part of the P (1400°C, low initial iron content of <2%).

Already fifteen years ago (Yokoyama et al. 2007, Kubo, Matsubae-Yokoyama & Nagasaka 2010) published results of lab scale (1g) tests of magnetic separation of simulated steel slag (mixtures of iron, calcium, silicon, aluminium and manganese chemicals). This showed improvement of the P:Fe ratio from c.0.2 (initial mixed chemicals) to c. 0.8 (after magnetic separation). However, the magnetically separated material still contained more iron than phosphorus.

“Study on the recovery of phosphorus and iron from molten modified high-phosphorus industrial slag by carbothermal reduction”, Y-Q. Liu et al., Metall. Res. Technol. 120, 307 (2023), https://doi.org/10.1051/metal/2023035

“Behavior of Carbothermal Dephosphorization of Phosphorus-Containing Converter Slag and Its Resource Utilization”, S. Tong et al. Processes 2023, 11, 1943. https://doi.org/10.3390/pr11071943

“Effect of iron oxide content on dephosphorization behavior of slag gasification”, S. Wang et al., Metalurgia 61 (2022) 3-4, 595-598, ISSN 0543-5846 https://hrcak.srce.hr/file/396846

“Effect of Slag Composition on Phosphorus Separation from Steelmaking Slag by Reduction”, K.  Nakase et al., ISIJ International, Vol. 57 (2017), No. 7 http://dx.doi.org/10.2355/isijinternational.ISIJINT-2017-071

“Magnetic Separation of Phosphorus Enriched Phase from Multiphase Dephosphorization Slag”, H. Kubo et al., Tetsu-to-Hagané, Vol. 95 (2009), No. 3, pp. 300–305) - ISIJ International, Vol. 50 (2010), No. 1

“Separation and Recovery of Phosphorus from Steelmaking Slags with the Aid of a Strong Magnetic Field”, K. Yokoyama et al., to-Hagané, Vol. 92, 2006, No.11, pp. 683–689) ISIJ International, Vol. 47 (2007), No. 10

ESPP comment: these lab studies confirms what is already known from the P4 industry, that P is difficult to separate from iron by carbothermal reduction. For industry, the remaining ferrophosphorus is a low or zero value by-product, decreases yield and increases energy consumption.

 

Electrolysis of phosphate rock in molten calcium chloride

P4 production by electrolysis, without carbon reduction, by dissolving phosphate rock in liquid calcium chloride (molten at 850°C) was demonstrated at lab-scale (electrolysis cell with 300g of liquid CaCl2. The calcium chloride was heat dried under vacuum, then heated to 850°C to melt, under argon, in an aluminium oxide crucible within a silicon oxide vessel. 2% mass of calcium phosphate Ca(PO4)2 was dissolved in the molten CaCl2. Silver cathode and graphite anode electrodes were used for electrolysis, causing phosphate to dissociate to P (moving to the cathode) and oxygen. Phosphorus was shown to have accumulated on the cathode (by dismantling at the end of the experiment) and on the surface of the silicon oxide vessel above the melt bath: the boiling point of P4 is around 280°C, significantly lower than the 850°C electrolysis temperature, so these deposits may be allotropes of phosphorus other than P4. Erosion of the graphite anode suggested that oxygen generated by electrolysis had combined with graphite to CO or CO2. The authors note that the rate limiting factor would be diffusion of the P and O ions in molten CaCl2, that other liquids could be used on condition that they dissolve calcium phosphate.

Patents by Gruber 1957-1960 and Caton 1963 showed successful production of P4 by electrolysis of molten metaphosphates, pyrophosphates or polyphosphates, or lithium and sodium phosphates, possibly with borates.

“A New Concept for Producing White Phosphorus: Electrolysis of Dissolved Phosphate in Molten Chloride”, X. Yang & T. Nohira, ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. 2020, 8, 13784−13792, https://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acssuschemeng.0c04796

“Method for the Preparation of Pure Elemental Phosphorus”, B. Gruber, (Monsanto), U.S. Patent 2955552, 1960, https://patents.google.com/patent/US2965552A/en

“Polarography in Fused Alkali Metaphosphates”, R. Caton et al., Anal. Chem. 1963, 35 (13), 2103−2108, https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ac60206a035

 

Electrolysis of molten condensed phosphate salts

P4 production by electrolysis of molten sodium tri metaphosphate melting point 628°C) was demonstrated at lab scale suggesting potential to achieve 95% Faradaic efficiency and to develop direct electrolysis to P4 from phosphoric acid. The tests used alumina reactor tubes of c. 460 mm x 13 mm diameter (then replaced by quartz for better oxidation resistance), under nitrogen flow, with glossy carbon and graphite electrodes. The sacrificial graphite anode was oxidised in electrolysis mainly to CO2. Elemental phosphorus (P4) was collected in a cold water bath through which offgas flow was bubbled. The authors indicate that the electrolysis breaks down the sodium trimetaphosphate (STMP) as follows: 6 (NaPO3)n -> P4 + 2 Na3PO4 + 5 O2 and that if phosphoric acid is added it is reacted and dehydrated 2 Na3PO4 + 4 H3PO4 – 6 H2O -> 6 (NaPO3)n so potentially enabling continuous electrolysis of phosphoric acid to P4. The authors note that this process benefits from the high ionic strength of the molten condensed phosphates which ensures high electrical conductivity, but the low proton content which avoids risk of hydrogen (H2) generation. The electrochemical cell ensures separation of the P4 generated at the cathode from O2 generated at the anode. The high phosphate content of condensed phosphates ensures high diffusion-limited current densities and their phosphoryl anhydride linkages are hypothesised to facilitate breakage of the strong P-O bonds (Lux acid effect, analogous to that of SiO2 in carbothermal P furnaces). The authors conclude that electrolysis in molten condensed phosphates can potentially produce P4 from phosphoric acid with high Faradaic efficiency and low overpotential.

“Towards Sustainable Electrosynthesis of Industrially Valuable Small Molecules”, J. Melville, PhD thesis Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Une 2021 https://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/139141

“Electrolytic Synthesis of White Phosphorus Is Promoted in Oxide-Deficient Molten Salts”, J. Melville, A. Licini, Y. Surendranath, ACS Cent. Sci. 2023, 9, 373−380, https://doi.org/10.1021/acscentsci.2c01336 and MIT News 21st February 2023 https://news.mit.edu/2023/more-sustainable-way-generate-phosphorus-0221

First reactions short summary: “Electrochemistry Cracks the P−O Bond: Sustainable Reduction of Phosphates to Phosphorus”, E. Nichols, ACS Cent. Sci. 2023, 9, 343−345 https://doi.org/10.1021/acscentsci.3c00056

See also J. Melville et al., 2021, summarised in ESPP eNews n°62.

ESPP comment: as a route to produce P4, electrolysis (even in hot molten salts) could potentially be more energy efficient and have lower GHG emissions than carbothermal reduction as currently used in P4 furnaces (using electrical energy and coke at c. 1400°C). Energy used to melt the electrolyte bed would not be lost in a continuous operation, and heat losses would be low in an insulated industrial-scale installation. There are however major challenges to scale-up to industrial implementation, including high temperature operation and durability (including avoiding oxidation), maintenance of electrodes and recovery of P4 (ensuring that P4 evolves as a gas and does not coalesce on the cathode or in the reaction chamber) in a continuous system without cooling the molten electrolyte. The possible effects of water if phosphoric acid is added (risk of H2 production) need to be assessed. The overall energy balance must take into account energy needed to produce phosphoric acid and to synthesise the salts used as electrolytes.

 

Tutorial review on organo-phosphorus chemistry and applications

Ung & Li (2023) 27-page detailed overview of organophosphorus (OP) chemistry, applications and synthesis routes, including information on different OP chemical families by oxidation state and valency (PIII – PV). Summary of uses of OPs as drugs (osteoporosis, cancer, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, hypertension …), both existing today (fire safety & flame retardants, plasticisers, catalysts – e.g. for uranium extraction) and under development (compact and flexible organic electronics, improved energy-efficiency phosphorated LEDs …). Two possible routes to OP chemicals from phosphoric acid (not via P4) are mentioned: esterification of phosphoric acid or polyphosphoric acid (this is a route to some OP chemicals only, not all); use of trichlorosilane to reduce trimetaphosphates (see Cummins et al. see ESPP eNews n°45).

Tutorial review “From rocks to bioactive compounds: a journey through the global P(V) organophosphorus industry and its sustainability”, S. Ung, C-J. Li, RSC Sustainability, 2023, 1, 11–37 https://doi.org/10.1039/D2SU00015F

ESPP note: trichlorosilane is currently produced from silicon, itself from a reducing furnace, so with similar energy costs to P4 and poses operational and chemical efficiency challenges.

 

 

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

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ESPP dates for 2024

Workshops and meetings
SOFIE3 – registration now open!
Standards & definitions for “Bio-Based” nutrients – registration now open!

Call for contributions to ESPP eNews

Research funding calls
Open Horizon Europe calls related to nutrients

Policy
Council and Parliament positions on Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD)
European Commission 2024 Work Programme
ESPP input on proposed Soil Health Directive
ESPP FPR summary table
EU Detergents Regulation revision
OCP West Africa partnership with World Bank and ECOWAS
Wageningen UR launches magnetite P-removal & recovery project

ESPP new member
K+S

Nutrient recycling
Remondis TetraPhos P-recovery operational in Hamburg
More publications but fewer patents on sustainable & recycled fertilisers
UK water industry Resource Recovery Working Group
Electroanalytical determination of paracetamol in organic fertilisers

Stay informed

ESPP members

 

 

ESPP dates for 2024

  • 14 Dec. 2023: 14h30-16h30 CET ESPP General Assembly (online) – ESPP members/partners have received link – if not contact – and EasyMining webinar 13h-14h30 CET on recycled phosphates for animal feed
  • 16-17 Jan. 2024: Brussels & online SOFIE3 (Organic and Organo-Mineral Fertilisers)
    (with Eurofema, Fertilizers Europe, International Fertiliser Society and SILC)
  • 18 Jan. 2024: Brussels & online “Bio-Based” nutrients - standards & definitions
  • 26-28 Feb. 2024: Warsaw CRU Phosphates 2024 ESPP panel on sustainable fertilisers
  • 12-13 March 2024: Brussels & online Nutrient recycling policy
    - targets for nutrient recovery under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive revision
    - policy tools to support market pull for recycled nutrients
  • 16-17 April 2024: Brussels & online NERM Nutrients in Europe Research Meeting - call for abstract extended to 10th December 2023
    (with Fertimanure, Lex4Bio, Walnut, Sea2Land, Rustica)
  • 8-10 October 2024: Lleida, Spain ESPC5 (5th European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference)

Workshops and meetings

 

SOFIE3 – registration now open!

sofie 2024 thumb3rd Summit of Organic and organo-mineral Fertiliser Industries in Europe. 16-17 January 2024, Brussels Plaza & hybrid

SOFIE is the only industry meeting place for organic-carbon-based fertiliser producers, distributors, advisory, technology suppliers. The first SOFIE (2019) attracted 125 participants, with 230 for SOFIE2 (January 2023).

Programme now online. Organic fertiliser company showcase pitches welcome.

Programme and conference website www.phosphorusplatform.eu/SOFIE

Registration now open SOFIE3 Conference + Defining “Bio-Based Fertilisers” Meeting on Eventbrite

 

 

Standards & definitions for “Bio-Based” nutrients – registration now open!

enews80 2Brussels & hybrid, 18th January 2024 Defining “Bio-Based Fertilisers” and FPR “solely biological origin”

The term “Bio-Based Fertilisers” is today being widely used. For market transparency and policy making. It is important to have a clear and agreed definition of what is a “Bio-Based Fertiliser” and how to define the “Bio-Based” nutrient content of fertilising products. Also, the EU Fertilising Products Regulation 2019/2009 uses the term “of solely biological origin” for nutrients in criteria of several PFCs and there is today no clarity on how this should be interpreted.

CEN and ISO methodologies for “Bio-based products: vocabulary” and for defining bio-based content are based on carbon radiodating, and are not applicable to nutrients.

This meeting will discuss

  • relevance of bio-based definitions for markets and policy making
  • existing official bio-based vocabulary (CEN, ISO, plastics sector, industry labels)
  • what comparable methodologies could be applied to recycled nutrients in fertilisers and in other applications?
  • possible coherence with FPR terminology “of solely biological origin”
  • wording of a joint industry / R&D position on proposed definitions ( this will take as a starting point the ESPP proposed working document HERE)
  • proposed next steps, possible input to policy makers, to CEN …

Programme: http://phosphorusplatform.eu/BBF2024

Registration now open SOFIE3 Conference + Defining “Bio-Based Fertilisers” Meeting on Eventbrite

 

Call for contributions to ESPP eNews

ESPP members and our other readers (you are more than 105 000!) are invited to get involved in ESPP eNews by submitting relevant news, articles, or information about your actions. Contributions are invited from researchers, companies, and stakeholders, and can include recent updates, accomplishments within your organisation, insights, industry expertise, press releases or research articles and perspectives, presenting your own organisation’s actions, or other news which you think is of interest. You can send us a proposed short text ready for publication, or simply forward to us a link or document which you suggest we should cover. ESPP eNews are circulated to over 120 000 recipient including companies, stakeholders, regulators and media interested in nutrient management, worldwide, and are also published on the ESPP website www.phosphorusplatform.eu. Your participation will enrich our newsletter and provide a platform for you to showcase your expertise and achievements.

To share your news, research articles, or press releases to be included in the next eNews issues, email them to

 

 

Research funding calls

 

Open Horizon Europe calls related to nutrients

Three Horizon Europe calls relative to “Clean environment and zero pollution” opened in October 2023 with deadline February 2024 (total budget 38 M€) and concern nutrient management and recycling and food systems. Projects funded under “Clean environment and zero pollution” aim at halting and preventing pollution by focusing on removing pollution from waters, soils, air, including nitrogen and phosphorus emissions, substituting harmful chemicals, improving the environmental sustainability and circularity of bio-based systems, and reducing environmental impacts of and pollution in food systems.

Demonstrating how regions can operate within safe ecological and regional nitrogen and phosphorus boundaries (Innovation action, 27 M€, 3 projects expected to be funded) aims at showing how N/P-relevant sectors (including agriculture, food/drink sector, water/waste management, bioenergy … ) in a given region can limit N/P emissions to air, water and soil from their activities by respecting pre-established regional N/P budgets and applying N/P balancing practices. These comprise activities that enhance the sustainability and circularity of N/P relevant resources and services between urban/industrial and rural/coastal environments and apply respective governance measures. Funded projects are expected to test innovative practices and technologies to make use of secondary raw materials and produce N and P-based fertilisers recovered from organic waste, wastewater, biological residues or by-products and promote local and regional value chains (achieving a TRL 8 by the end of the project) and to develop comprehensive guidelines to disseminate best practices and techniques to all involved actors.

Best available techniques to recover or recycle fertilising products from secondary raw materials (Coordination and Support Actions, 4 M€, 2 projects to be funded) covers technical, environmental and economic analysis of best available technologies for recovering/recycling fertilising products from secondary raw materials in Europe while limiting N and P pollution in soil, water and air and any other form of pollution from the use of such fertilising products and from the replacement of N- and P-based fertilisers produced from conventional processes. Examples of fertilising products are: recycled nutrients from urban and industrial waste water and sewage sludge, organic fertilising products from bio-waste, digestate and treated manure as well as other fertilising products from biological resources.

Environmental impacts of food systems (Research and Innovation Actions, 7M€) aims to fill the relevant knowledge and data gaps regarding the environmental impacts of food processing, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, trade, consumption, food waste and end of life practices. Proposals are expected to identify and map opportunities and innovative solutions, including existing good practices that address the identified impacts and promote the uptake of sustainable food production and/or food supply practices, including consumption practices, with minimum impact.

The deadline for submitting proposals is 22nd February 2024, 17:00 Brussels time.

Horizon Europe Working Programme 2023-2024 pdf (details of described calls at p. 364 and successive)
ESPP is interested to support networking, dissemination, and communication activities. Please contact Veronica Santoro for more information and possibilities (). ESPP research activities and ESPP nutrient related R&D project list www.phosphorusplatform.eu/R&D

 

Policy

Council and Parliament positions on Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD)

European Parliament and Council (Member States) positions on UWWTD revision both maintain defining minimum reuse & recycling rates for phosphorus (art. 20), but Council proposes to delete reuse & recycling of nitrogen. Both support amendments to widen reuse & recycling to include from wastewater and not only from sludge (amendment proposed by ESPP). Positions differ on the timeline for defining reuse & recycling targets, with Parliament wishing to accelerate this. Parliament proposes to support development of a functional market for recovered nutrients but this is not proposed by Council. Both propose to include N2O in greenhouse emissions reductions, which is important as this is one of the most important climate impacts from wastewater treatment. Positions differ on extent of tightening of P and N emissions limits and removal obligations from sewage, and on proposed implementation deadlines for these, with Parliament’s position in many cases even more demanding than the initial Commission proposed revision text, and Council less demanding. Discussions to finalise the UWWTD revision now go to “trilogue” (negotiation between the European Parliament and Council representatives, with participation of the European Commission) with the aim to agree a compromise text to be adopted by both Parliament and Council before next year’s European Parliament elections (6-9 June 2024, followed by the designation of a new European Commission). ESPP has written to Member States and European Parliament rapporteurs suggesting that nitrogen reuse & recycling should not be abandoned in the current nitrogen fertiliser supply and price crisis context (related to gas supplies and the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine). ESPP proposes as a compromise to specify assessment by the Commission of feasibility and cost/benefits for nitrogen recovery.

European Commission initial proposed text for the UWWTD revision: https://environment.ec.europa.eu/publications/proposal-revised-urban-wastewater-treatment-directive_en

Parliament voted position: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2023-0355_EN.pdf

Council position: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CONSIL:ST_14271_2023_INIT

ESPP letter to Parliament and Council for trilogue: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory

 

European Commission 2024 Work Programme

2024 Work Programme shows limited Green Deal ambition. Emphasis is on resilience, economic security, digital, and reduced regulatory burdens. The Integrated Nutrient Management Action Plan, announced for 2023, is not mentioned (it was already not mentioned in previous Work Programmes, presumably because it was announced as a non-regulatory initiative). Pending initiatives listed include the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive revision, the proposed Soil Health Act, Critical Raw Materials Act, Waste Framework Directive revision, Ecodesign Regulation recast, Nature Restoration Regulation. Three new initiatives are planned for 2024 under the Green Deal: wind power, 2040 climate targets, water resilience. An evaluation in 2024 of the Nitrates Directive will assess whether it is fit for purpose, including whether it sufficiently promotes the recycling of nutrients from various sources, including processed manure. A fitness check of “Polluter Pays” implementation is also announced. The revision of the EU chemicals regulation REACH, included in the 2023 Work Programme, has disappeared. A “strategic dialogue on the future of agriculture in the EU” is announced, targeting a “transition to sustainable food systems”. Food security and resilience of food systems are emphasised but nutrients are not mentioned.

European Commission Work Programme 2024 (17th October 2023).

 

ESPP input on proposed Soil Health Directive

Draft EU legislative text now with European Parliament and Council fixes “objectives” of healthy soils across the EU by 2050, including phosphorus and nitrogen criteria. Further details are in ESPP eNews n°77. ESPP’s input to the public consultation welcomes the proposed maximum phosphorus level for all European soils (maximum between 30 and 50 mgPOlsen/kgsoil) to be defined locally and maximum nitrogen levels (if critical ecosystem services are compromised). This reflects the EU Farm-to-Fork and Biodiversity Strategy target to “reduce nutrient losses by at least -50% without deteriorating soil fertility”. ESPP welcomes the recognition of appropriate fertilisation, nutrient recycling and organic fertilisers in Sustainable Soil Management Principles (in Annex III(e)). ESPP suggests that healthy soil criteria should also include, for crop and grazing land, MINIMUM plant-available phosphorus levels, defined by region / soil / crop types and taking into account biodiversity and water quality objectives. Without adequate phosphorus supply, plant health and crop productivity are compromised.

Proposed EU Directive on Soil Monitoring and Resilience (Soil Monitoring Law), European Commission proposed legislative text 5th July 2023, COM(2023) 416 final Eur-LEX.

ESPP FPR summary table

ESPP has produced a table summarising EU Fertilising Products Regulation amendments, regulatory documents, links and other relevant EU documents available. The document can be consulted here and comments are welcome ().

Input welcome: “ESPP FPR summary table”, v15/11/2023 here

EU Detergents Regulation revision

European Commission proposal maintains status quo of phosphates limits in consumer laundry and dishwasher detergents, but not in industrial detergents. The proposal’s main objectives are to update and simplify the 2019 Regulation and to address innovations: microbes included in detergents, consumer refill packs. The current Regulation limits phosphorus in detergents for consumer laundry (0.5gP/wash) and consumer automatic dishwasher (0.3 gP/wash). This effectively prevents the use of “phosphates” as detergent builders (sodium tripolyphosphate STPP or similar) but allows small quantities of components such as phosphonates. The draft European Parliament position, proposed by the Rapporteur Manuela Ripa proposes to reduce these limits and complexify them (distinguish “phosphate” content from “phosphorus”, fix limits per kg of laundry) and to also limit phosphorus in hand dishwash liquids, surface cleaners and in industrial laundry and industrial dishwasher detergents. The European Commission proposal states that phosphorus in industrial detergents is considered to be not environmentally significant and the suitable alternatives are not available. It is ESPP’s understanding that phosphates are generally not used in hand dishwash and surface cleaners (and not in shampoos), so that phosphorus limits in such products are not appropriate.

“COM(2023)217 - Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on detergents and surfactants, amending Regulation (EU) 2019/1020 and repealing Regulation (EC) No 648/2004” 28th April 2023.

European Parliament draft report, Manuela Ripa, 2023/0124(COD), 2nd October 2023.

 

OCP West Africa partnership with World Bank and ECOWAS

Partnership aims to improve customised fertiliser access and sustainable fertiliser use for farmers in Benin, Guinea, Mali and Togo, covering 10 million hectares. OCP, a member of ESPP, operates phosphate rock mines in Morocco and is a world leader in phosphate fertiliser and plant nutrition solutions. The partnership signed with the World Bank will reinforce the ECOWAS fertiliser and soil health Roadmap (Economic Community of West African States), develop digital soil analysis and mapping enabling adapted customised fertilisation, establish agricultural technology, service and training centres, and support the launch of a West Africa Regional Center for Soil Health and Fertility by IITA (International Institute for Tropical Agriculture). OCP says the partnership will enable West Africa to “contribute to global food security with a just and sustainable agricultural transition, contributing to African development and prosperity”

“OCP Group and World Bank Join Forces to Boost Food Security and Agricultural Development in West Africa”, World Bank, 11th October 2023

“Phosphate marocain : clé de la sécurité alimentaire Mondiale”, EcoNostrum, 26th October 2023.

 

 

Wageningen UR launches magnetite P-removal & recovery project

MAD project (Magnetic Adsorption – Desorption) will test selective removal of soluble phosphate from wastewater by adsorption to magnetite, magnetic separation, then desorption to release a phosphate solution for recovery. Because it can readily be separated by electromagnetic field, magnetite (Fe3O4) is today used to improve flocculation, improving particulate settling and tertiary P-removal from wastewater in the CoMag process, with a number of units operating commercially worldwide (see SCOPE Newsletter n°141), and has been tested in various other processes (e.g. Marmara University, LKAB, Xiao et al., see SCOPE Newsletter n°138). Challenges for the Wageningen project will be to achieve selective adsorption of phosphate, without other ions, and without coagulation of organic particulates, and reversing the adsorption to generate a sufficiently concentrated and clean orthophosphate solution. Wageningen’s partners in the MAD project include Agristo (potato products), Royal Swinkels brewery, Bakker Magnetics, Sidra Wasserchemie, BiotaNutri and Suez.

Recovery and Valorisation of Phosphorus compounds from Waste Water Streams using Magnetic Adsorption-Desorption (MAD), website

 

ESPP new member

 

K+S

enews80 3International raw materials company, K+S has over 11 000 staff worldwide, specialised in potassium salts and other minerals for use in fertilisers, animal feed, food, pharmaceutical, water treatment, de-icing and industrial applications. The roots of the K+S Group date back to the middle of the 19th century, mining the world's first potash deposits in Germany for fertiliser production. Today, K+S operates potassium and sodium mineral mines in Europe and North America and produces balanced mineral products according to customer needs. K+S is strongly focussed on agriculture and fertilisers, and makes an important contribution to society by enabling farmers to secure the world's food supply. As a raw materials company with limited resources, K+S strives to make efficient use of its own natural raw materials to counteract global scarcity, whilst ensuring responsibility towards society and the environment in operating regions. The claim is to enrich life for generations and to be a pioneer for environmentally friendly and sustainable mining. Because the extraction of valuable materials from waste streams will play an ever more important role in creating a more sustainable future, K+S has set the mission of developing new, circular business areas as part of its strategy. For this purpose, K+S wants to actively participate in ESPP and establish partnerships to advance the circular economy. In the past, K+S successfully marketed “Thomaskali”, a secondary phosphorus product from steel industry slag. K+S will contribute to the ESPP network its many years of expertise in fertiliser production through to the targeted application of products

www.kpluss.com & Image Films

 

Nutrient recycling

 

Remondis TetraPhos P-recovery operational in Hamburg

enews80 4Full-scale phosphorus recovery from sewage sludge incineration ash today operating 1/3 capacity, treating c. 7000 t/y of ash. The technical grade phosphoric acid produced has iron/aluminium content which limits sale to certain applications. ESPP joined a visit of the Remondis TetraPhos P-recovery installation, Hamburg, with some 25 participants, organised by DPP (German Phosphorus Platform), 25th October 2023. TetraPhos is now operational, processing sewage sludge ash from Hamburg Wasser where the whole sewage sludge of the city of Hamburg (75%) and sewage sludge from surrounding municipalities (25%) is combusted. 1.5 million m³ wet sludge, = 125 000 t/y dewatered sludge, produce about 20,000 t/y of ash. Hamburg Wasser operates a dryer upstream of the incinerator that dries all locally produced sludge to 85% dry matter. After mixing this sludge with dewatered (25% DM) sludge from external customers, the sludge has about 45% DM and is conveyed to the incinerator where it is combusted without additional fuels. Heat for drying is supplied from the same sludge processed in anaerobic digesters. The P-recovery plant capacity is 7 000 t technical (75%) phosphoric acid from 20,000 t ash. The acid is not fully compliant with technical grade acid specifications because of high iron and aluminium concentrations. The concept is to sell it to customers who do not have an issue with Fe / Al content, for a slightly lower price than technical grade acid. Currently the plant is operating only one shift processing around 1/3 of the full capacity. The operating company Phosphorrecycling Hamburg http://www.phosphorrecycling-hh.de/unternehmen/unternehmen.html is a private public partnership between Hamburg Wasser and Remondis. The process (see summary in ESPP Technology Catalogue) is based on acid leaching with internally recycled phosphoric acid. Leaching is relatively mild, so most heavy metals remain in the filter cake (solid / liquid separation by a vacuum belt filter). The filter cake is landfilled (same category as ash). The liquid is reacted with sulphuric acid, gypsum precipitated and separated by another vacuum belt filter. Then the liquid is purified by ion exchange columns. On the photo, the phosphate recycling building is on the right side in the back, with the acid tanks in front.

More publications but fewer patents on sustainable & recycled fertilisers

Bibliometric analysis of nearly 250 000 published papers and patents shows an increasing number of both from 2001 to 2017, but after that date a doubling of publications but a halving of patents. Searches combined the terms sustainable, recycled or recovered with either fertiliser or nutrient (or similar words) from 2001 to 2021. The number of publications on nutrient recovery from wastewater increased from 2001 to 2012 but has not increased since then. Publications on green ammonia synthesis have increased rapidly since around 2017. In total, 120 000 patents were identified and 125 000 journal publications. Nearly all the patents were from China, as well as around half of the journal articles, with India and the USA also generating high numbers of publications.  Most patents addressed agricultural wastes or wastewater & sludge. Publications on green ammonia synthesis have increased. This analysis fails to consider that these trends should be considered in the context of the overall inflation in scientific publications (doubling in 17 years Bornmann et al. 2021) and the similar global increase in patent applications (see here).

“Sustainable Fertilizers: Publication Landscape on Wastes as Nutrient Sources, Wastewater Treatment Processes for Nutrient Recovery, Biorefineries, and Green Ammonia Synthesis”, L. Babcock-Jackson et al., J. Agric. Food Chem. 2023, 71, 8265−8296, DOI.

 

 

UK water industry Resource Recovery Working Group

Second online meeting analysed potential resource recovery streams and discussed three wastewater resource recovery case studies (Ostara struvite, AquaMinerals biopolymers, Cranfield University N-recovery as ammonia gas). Participants included five UK water companies, regulators, technology suppliers and experts. Analysis of over forty resource recovery technologies for UKWIR (UK Water Industry joint Research) and for Thames Water suggests that only biogas/biomethane and biosolids (sewage sludge to land) are widely viable at present, while heat recovery, ferric sludge, CO2, cellulose, hydrogen and nitrogen recovery are potentially promising in the medium term, based on economic and sustainability criteria. Key challenges are identified for all wastewater treatment resource recovery routes as the regulatory validation of the recovered product and responding to downstream user requirements (quality, supply logistics and scale …). The UK water industry Resource Recovery Working Group is open to participation of all concerned companies and competent persons.

Contact: Robert Naylor

 

 

Electroanalytical determination of paracetamol in organic fertilisers

Study presents an electroanalytical procedure employing a portable, sensitive, relatively low-cost system for the determination of paracetamol in human urine and in recovered struvite.

Paracetamol, one of the most consumed drugs in the world, was determined in samples of urine, struvite, and pharmaceutical tablet with screen-printed carbon electrodes in conjunction with optimized square-wave voltammetry. Urine samples consisted in human urine from a single donor (an adult male who had not used any medication in the previous 3 months), human urine used in the production of struvite from multiple donors, and synthetic urine. The proposed procedure, utilising 0.1 mol/l HCl as a supporting electrolyte and an Ag/AgCl electrode as reference, presented a limit of detection of 0.06 μmol paracetamol/l and a linear concentration range between 0.19 to 100.0 μmol/l. The method demonstrated a good sensitivity without using any preconcentration technique or modification of the electrode surface, and a good selectivity for determining paracetamol compared to the other substances studied as possible interferences, including ascorbic acid, uric acid, cephalexin, dopamine, diclofenac, ethinylestradiol, norfloxacin, prednisone, potassium, calcium, ammonia, and urea (in the proportion of 1:100 paracetamol:interferent). Good reproducibility was obtained for analyses performed on the same electrode, between electrodes and days, and recovery tests underlined no significant matrix interference. Among the method limitations is the possibility of some compounds to interfere with the detected analyte, which may require the sensor modification with specific materials (inorganic, organic, or biological).

“A portable electroanalytical procedure to determine paracetamol in organic fertilizers” L. R. G. Silva, Ionics (2022) DOI

 

Stay informed

SCOPE Newsletter: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/SCOPEnewsletter   

eNews newsletter: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNewshome

If you do not already receive ESPP’s SCOPE Newsletter and eNews (same emailing list), subscribe at www.phosphorusplatform.eu/subscribe

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/phosphorusplatform

Slideshare presentations: https://www.slideshare.net/phosphorusplatform 

Twitter: @phosphorusESPP     

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/phosphorusplatform

 

ESPP members

ESPP member logos 10.10.23 page 0001

European Parliament and Council (Member States) positions on UWWTD revision both maintain defining minimum reuse & recycling rates for phosphorus (art. 20), but Council proposes to delete reuse & recycling of nitrogen. Both support amendments to widen reuse & recycling to include from wastewater and not only from sludge (amendment proposed by ESPP). Positions differ on the timeline for defining reuse & recycling targets, with Parliament wishing to accelerate this. Parliament proposes to support development of a functional market for recovered nutrients but this is not proposed by Council. Both propose to include N2O in greenhouse emissions reductions, which is important as this is one of the most important climate impacts from wastewater treatment. Positions differ on extent of tightening of P and N emissions limits and removal obligations from sewage, and on proposed implementation deadlines for these, with Parliament’s position in many cases even more demanding than the initial Commission proposed revision text, and Council less demanding. Discussions to finalise the UWWTD revision now go to “trilogue” (negotiation between the European Parliament and Council representatives, with participation of the European Commission) with the aim to agree a compromise text to be adopted by both Parliament and Council before next year’s European Parliament elections (6-9 June 2024, followed by the designation of a new European Commission). ESPP has written to Member States and European Parliament rapporteurs suggesting that nitrogen reuse & recycling should not be abandoned in the current nitrogen fertiliser supply and price crisis context (related to gas supplies and the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine). ESPP proposes as a compromise to specify assessment by the Commission of  feasibility and cost/benefits for nitrogen recovery.

European Commission initial proposed text for the UWWTD revision: https://environment.ec.europa.eu/publications/proposal-revised-urban-wastewater-treatment-directive_en
Parliament voted position: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2023-0355_EN.pdf
Council position: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CONSIL:ST_14271_2023_INIT
ESPP letter to Parliament and Council for trilogue: www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory

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

Please subscribe www.phosphorusplatform.eu/Subscribe
Link to www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNews079
Download as PDF

Workshops and meetings
SOFIE3: call for presentations – open to 15th October
NERM Nutrients in Europe Research Meeting - call for abstracts to 15th November

Policy
EU Soil Health Directive proposal
EU proposed food waste reduction targets and actions
What is the nutrient recycling potential of food waste?
Proposed criteria for “Processed Manure” in EU fertilising products
EU workshop on standards and NACE codes for bio-based materials
NGOs and water industry call for publication of EU nutrient action plan
Phasing out synthetic fertilisers?
EU report on phosphorus and nitrogen R&D projects

Nutrient recycling
Unilever adopts N2 Applied’s nitrogen valorisation technology
UK water companies’ recycling working group
Seminar on circularity in the water sector

Research
US STEPS 25-in-25 Phosphorus Sustainability Roadmap
Long-term P fertilisation reduces carbon sink function of a peatland
LCA impacts of wastewater-derived P products

Stay informed

ESPP members

 

Workshops and meetings

 

SOFIE3: call for presentations – open to 15th October

3rd Summit of Organic and organo-mineral Fertiliser Industries in Europe. 16-17 January 2024, Brussels Plaza & hybrid


SOFIE is the only industry meeting place for organic-carbon-based fertiliser producers, distributors, advisory, technology suppliers. The first SOFIE (2019) attracted 125 participants, with 230 for SOFIE2 (January 2023, photo below).

sofie 3 news 79

SOFIE3 will cover:

  • policy and market
  • agronomic benefits, in particular field trials and case studies
  • processing from divers input materials to consistent products for farmers
  • application best practices, e.g. co-application with mineral fertilisers, biostimulants
  • environment, carbon benefits, LCA, Circular Economy
  • business models and product success stories

Short proposals for presentations, company showcases or posters by 15th October to : see details HERE.

SOFIE3 is co-organised by ESPPEurofema and Fertilizers Europe, with support of the International Fertiliser Society

www.phosphorusplatform.eu/SOFIE2024

 

 

NERM Nutrients in Europe Research Meeting - call for abstracts to 15th November

nerm 2024 news 796th PERM becomes NERM – 16-17 April 2024 – Brussels & online – plus research students meeting & site visits.

NERM (Nutrients in Europe Research Meeting) is organised by ESPP, FERTIMANURE, LEX4BIO, RUSTICA, SEA2LAND, WALNUT and Biorefine Cluster Europe.

Towards closing nutrient cycles for a sustainable future, from R&D to implementation.
- key outcomes of recent nutrient recycling R&D projects
- roadmap for future nutrient recycling R&D needs
- nutrient recovery technologies and recycled fertiliser production
- quality, application and use, stakeholder acceptance of secondary fertilisers
- from nutrient recovery to market

Plus PhD / research students event 15th April and site visits (on-farm and sewage treatment nutrient recovery sites).

Call for abstracts, open to 15th November 2023, and outline programme are published https://phosphorusplatform.eu/nerm

 

 

Policy

 

EU Soil Health Directive proposal

Public consultation open to 3rd November 2023. Possibility to input plain text comments (max. 4 000 characters) plus document. https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/13350-Soil-health-protecting-sustainably-managing-and-restoring-EU-soils_en

 

EU proposed food waste reduction targets and actions

Amendments to the EU Waste Framework Directive, as proposed by the European Commission, would fix targets to reduce food waste by 2030: -10% for food manufacture and processing, -30% for households. Member States must define Food Waste reduction programmes, including the following actions: behavioural change campaigns, actions to address supply chain inefficiencies, food donation systems, skills training, funding for SMEs and social economy actors. The proposed amendments to the Directive are currently open to public consultation and will go to European Parliament and Council for decision.

“Revision of EU Waste Framework”, public consultation open to 22nd November 2023. Possibility to input plain text comments (max. 4 000 characters) plus document. https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/13225-Environmental-impact-of-waste-management-revision-of-EU-waste-framework_en

 

What is the nutrient recycling potential of food waste?

Phosphorus and nitrogen in food waste could supply around 10% of nutrients needed for crop production. Analysis for Seattle, USA, suggests that if all food waste were collected and nutrients recycled (compared to only 10% - 50% current collection rates) this would supply 0.6 kgN and 0.1 kgP (per person, per year). The estimates are based on Zhang 2007, who analysed food waste in San Francisco, finding average contents (% dry matter) of 3% N, 0.5% P and 0.9% K. These estimates of nutrients in food waste compare to an estimated 6.6 kgN and 1.1 kgP considered necessary input to grow non animal feed crops. ESPP notes that average dietary intake of phosphorus is around 0.5 kgP/person/year (c. 1.3 gP/person/day, see SCOPE Newsletter n°103). Estimates of food waste production and collection vary considerably: US EPA 2009 = 109 kg/person/year, Seattle 123 kg in 2009 reduced to 65 kg in 2021 in single-family homes, but only 56 kg down to 30 kg in multi-family homes (apartments). The conclusions are that nutrient recycling potential from food waste is limited (compared to municipal wastewater and manure) but is nonetheless significant, and that the priority must be to reduce food waste.

“Connections: How Much N And P Are In Urban Residuals?”, S. Brown, BioCycle, 7th August 2023.

 

Proposed criteria for “Processed Manure” in EU fertilising products

Public consultation is open to 30th October on proposals a Delegated Regulation to include “Processed Manure” (as defined in the Animal By-Products Regulations) in the EU Fertilising Products Regulation FPR (CMC10). ESPP’s proposed input is HERE for comment. The proposed criteria are based on a draft JRC report circulated for comment to the Fertilisers Expert Group late September. The proposed Delegated Regulation would add processed manure to CMC10 to the EU Fertilising Products Regulation, under certain specified conditions. This concerns only “Processed Manure” which has reached an End Point as defined in EU Animal By-Products (ABP) Regulation 1069/2009, that is fulfilling the criteria specified in the ABP daughter Regulation 142/2011 – Annex XI – Chapter I – Section 2, which specifies (inter alia) heat treatment of at least 70°C for 1 hour in a registered ABP processing plant

 It is noted that manure which has undergone composting or anaerobic digestion according to both the criteria in the ABP Regulations and the criteria in CMCs 3 or 5 of the EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR) are already authorised under the FPR* (It is ESPP’s understanding that this also applies to combustion ashes and pyrolysis materials / biochars subject to the criteria of CMCs 13 and 14*).

The proposed criteria for “Processed Manure” in CMC10 specify that the material shall have a limited oxygen uptake (intended to ensure stability), sets limits for PAH (poly aromatic carbons) and indirectly for certain herbicide residues, and specifies that the material can be post-processed by a specified and limited list of processes including solid-liquid separation, drying, pH adjustment, P or N recovery and that additives necessary for such processes can be used (with limits and conditions). The proposed criteria also require storage to be protected from sunlight and precipitation, intended to avoid ammonia losses to air, odours or leaching. ESPP suggests that such loss mitigation should also cover transport, that it be clarified whether this refers to before ABPR processing, between ABPR processing and FPR certification or after FPR certification (placing on the market). ESPP also suggests that this criterion should be made clearer by specifically referring to limiting air pollution, leaching and accidental spillages,. ESPP notes, and welcomes, that limiting ammonia losses during use should is addressed in labelling (Annex II of the FPR).

ESPP thanks the European Commission for the rapid production of these proposed criteria and draft Delegated Regulation for “Processed Manure” in CMC10, and notes that these take into account comments input by stakeholders, in particular concerning post-processing.

European Commission public consultation “EU fertilising products – Processed manure as a component material in EU fertilising products”, open to 30th October 2023 (4 000 characters plus possibility to upload a document) HERE

ESPP’s proposed input is HERE for comment.

European Commission JRC DRAFT circulated for comment (not yet adopted or endorsed by the European Commission) “Technical proposals for processed manure as a component material for EU Fertilising Products” LINK.

* These points remain to be clarified.

 

EU workshop on standards and NACE codes for bio-based materials

100+ participants in Brussels and online discussed standards needs to support the bio-economy concluding that clear definitions are needed to support Public Procurement policies and for transparency for companies in the market at a workshop organised by the European Commission on 29th September 2023. Presentations included DG GROW, CEN/TC 411 / WG 4 ‘Sustainability criteria, life cycle analysis and related issues’, ISO/TC 276 ‘Biotechnology’ and Eurostat. The workshop emphasised that standards are considered important by companies to enable market access, improve quality and reduce risks. One study suggests that standardisation contributes 30 – 40% of GDP growth and of labour productivity (Menon, Nordic Economies, 2018). Participants noted that the US is actively developing bio-based standards to promote national production in line with the Inflation Reduction Act objectives. Much work is ongoing on standards for forestry and paper products, and on aspects such as Life Cycle Assessment or general circularity approaches (e.g. ISO/TC 323 - Circular economy). There is wide demand from many different industry sectors for standard development for various bio-based products and processes.

NACE codes were discussed. These are important because used in EU statistics and often also in policy criteria. However, NACE codes are based on companies’ economic activity (often reflecting the production process and output products) and are not adapted to identifying inputs or processes used (a company’s NACE code will say it produces textiles, not whether or not it uses IA to control its machines). Participants noted that use of NACE codes in e.g. the EU “Taxonomy” criteria is ineffective in identifying bio-based inputs.

ESPP indicated that there is a need for a standard for defining “bio-based” nutrient content of fertilisers (or of e.g. phosphorus in technical chemicals) in that the CEN methodology for quantifying bio-based content of products (CEN/TR 16721) uses radio-dating which is not applicable to P, K or N (see ESPP eNews n°73). This is also relevant for interpretation of the wording “nutrients of solely biological origin” in the EU Fertilising Products Regulation (PFC definitions of Organic Fertiliser, Organo-Mineral Fertiliser, Organic Soil Improver). ESPP’s draft position Paper on the definitions of “Bio-Based Fertiliser” or “Bio-Based Nutrient” is available here and is open for comment. ESPP notes that development of many standards is underway to support implementation of the EU Fertilising Products Regulation and STRUBIAS.

The European Commission concluded that the workshop demonstrated the importance of standards to industry, and confirmed the need to further work on standards relevant to bio-based materials, and also to look at how standards and NACE codes are used in EU policy criteria.

DG GROW is also working on market tools to promote uptake of bio-based products, and announced a second workshop on this theme 11th December 2023. See ESPP’s input to the first such workshop (10th May 2023) here.

Written input to DG GROW is open to 15th October

European Commission DG GROW Bio-Based Products page.

 

NGOs and water industry call for publication of EU nutrient action plan

Fourteen organisations have signed a joint letter to the European Commission asking for rapid publication and high ambitious of the EU’s INMAP (Integrated Nutrient Management Action Plan), announced in 2020 in the Green Deal. They underline that INMAP is urgent and necessary to achieve the Farm-to-Fork, Biodiversity and Zero Pollution Action Plan targets to reduce nutrient losses by 50% by 2030. The letter states that “bold action and clear directions are needed” and urges the European Commission “to hold to its promise to deliver the INMAP and to listen to scientific expertise for setting the path until 2030 and beyond … the EU could achieve genuine strategic autonomy in nutrients management and ultimately food production”.

Open letter to the: European Commission “Completing the European Green Deal: The Commission’s initiative for an Integrated Nutrients Management Action Plan”, European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Eureau, AquaPublica and others, 13th September 2023 on EEB website.

 

Phasing out synthetic fertilisers ?

ESPP questions the statement in the letter cited above that “phasing out synthetic fertilisers use in the EU is realistic as part of a transition to agroecological farming, accompanied by a cut in food waste and a shift to sustainable diets”. It is not ESPP’s competence to discuss this statement for nitrogen. For phosphorus, we note that both of the two studies referenced (Poux IDDRI 2018, Billen 2021) explicitly state that they do not address phosphorus. ESPP also notes that phosphorus inputs are considered to have been a determinant allowing global population expansion beyond one billion after the 19th century (Smit et al. 2009). Phosphorus cannot be biologically fixed from air. Medieval agriculture was phosphorus efficient so phasing out inputs from mined phosphate rock might mean returning to both a medieval population level and a medieval average diet. However, dietary shifts have less impact on net P use than they do on N or CO2, because P is conservative: what goes into one end of the cow comes out the other end (some is lost in growing fodder to feed animals). ESPP has often presented slides in conferences (publicly available here) indicating that “Without mineral phosphate fertilisers we could feed maybe 1/5th of the current world population (adapted from Dawson et al., Food Policy 2011)”. ESPP does not suggest that this is accurate but to date nobody has indicated to us that it is completely wrong, and (as we have done when presenting these slides) we call on scientists to carry out such an assessment for phosphorus.

Any comments on this discussion are welcome and may be published in our next eNews. Send to

 

EU report on phosphorus and nitrogen R&D projects

75-page DG Research summary of 72 Horizon 2020 projects on nutrients (total 370 M€ EU funding) proposed as a contribution to INMAP (the announced EU Integrated Nutrient Management Action Plan). The report, prepared by the European Commission DG Research and Innovation, analyses 72 Horizon 2020 research projects, completed or underway and with project budgets > 1 M€, addressing phosphorus and/or nitrogen cycles, nutrient pollution reduction techniques, fertiliser production, nutrient use in agriculture or governance. The projects are considered to have policy impact if e.g. policy recommendations were elaborated within the project, and to have technological impact if e.g. a pilot plant was built. It is not however analysed whether policy recommendations made by the project have been considered by policy makers or implemented into regulation, nor whether the pilot plant led to industrial scale up and uptake to market. The projects led to a total of forty-two pilot plants, four patents and nearly 100 scientific publications or conference proceedings. Policy outcomes cited include that the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive should be revised (underway), that the Sewage Sludge Directive should be revised (expected) and the establishment of EU End-of-Waste criteria for products recovered from wastewaters (rejected for the moment, European Commission 5th April 2022, see ESPP eNews n°65) and financial incentives for circular water technologies (not yet anticipated). Conclusions include the need to enable permanent access to project outcomes after projects end (project websites tend to disappear when project funding terminates), centring dissemination efforts at the end of the project (when there are results and outcomes to present, rather than presenting what the project hopes to do) and including policy recommendations relevant to EU legislation in technical projects.

“Systematic approach preventing pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus. A contribution to the Integrated Nutrients Management Plan from the Research & Innovation perspective”, European Commission DG Research & Innovation, August 2023 DOI.

 

Nutrient recycling

 

Unilever adopts N2 Applied’s nitrogen valorisation technology

Four N2 Applied plasma slurry nitrogen upgrade installations, supplied in partnership with food industry technology leader GEA, will be installed at dairy farms in the Netherlands to improve supply chain sustainability for Unilever. The N2 Applied system increases nitrogen fertiliser value of slurry and stabilises nitrogen present in the slurry, so reducing losses to water and losses of methane, ammonia and greenhouse gases to air. The N2 Applied technology is provided by GEA as a “manure enricher solution” as part of the GEA “Next Generation Farming” approach. The four installations in the Netherlands will provide data for a year to enable Unilever to assess benefits for milk supply chain sustainability and potential for scale-up. GEA state that the system can reduce dairy farms’ total carbon footprint by up to 30%, and that reducing nitrogen losses allows more efficient nutrient use and so economic benefits for the farmer.

“N2 Applied's technology will be used by food industry giant”, N2 Applied News, September 2023.

“GEA partners with Unilever to improve sustainability on dairy farms”, 31st August 2023.

 

UK water companies’ recycling working group

Led by Thames Water, UK “Resource Recovery Technical Working Group” aims to bring together stakeholders and collate information on technologies and regulation. Members to date include several English water companies, Scottish Water, Irish Water, consultancy experts, researchers and government representatives. A first online meeting, with around forty participants, 28th September, discussed developments in EU and UK regulations (EU Waste Water Treatment Directive revision, EU Fertilising Products Regulation and UK fertilisers regulations, REACH and UK REACH, End-of-Waste) and how to develop an economic market for recycled nutrients and other recovered materials (e.g. polymers). Future meetings will look at resource recovery and nutrient recycling technologies, end-use needs, building markets for recovered materials, operating parameters and scalability, economics and technology evaluation, contaminants and safety.

UK “Resource Recovery Technical Working Group”. This working group is open.
To participate contact: Robert Naylor
ESPP slides from RAMIRAN September 2023, update on EU policy and regulations for organics recycling HERE.

Seminar on circularity in the water sector

The Aqua Publica Europea event, in Verona and online 29th June, saw 120 participants discuss the legislative framework, sludge management approaches, and measures to increase the circularity of the wastewater sector.

Milo Fiasconaro, Aqua Publica Europea, Bernard Van Nuffel, Vivaqua, and Roberto Mantovanelli, Viveracqua, welcomed participants and introduced the main objectives of the seminar: to explore the approaches to circularity in the water sector across Europe and to promote a dialogue with experts and institutions about how to address common challenges in the context of the ongoing revision of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive and the publication of the evaluation of the Sewage Sludge Directive by the European Commission.

Nele-Frederike Rosenstock, European Commission, DG ENV, summarised the main novelties of the revision of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWTD, see also ESPP’s summary), now under co-decision in the Parliament and Council, and its relevance to sludge management. Articles 14 and 20 are especially important for circularity and sludge, as they address the tracking of non-domestic pollution and its reduction at source (art. 14), which should result in cleaner sludges, and the use of sludge according to the waste hierarchy (art. 20), as well as the introduction of recycling rates for P and N. She also reported on the recently published evaluation of the Sewage Sludge Directive, which finds that the Directive is effective and relevant and supported by stakeholders, although more can be done to adapt it to Green Deal targets and currently available technologies. At the moment, it is yet to be decided politically whether or not the text will be revised, but this would seem appropriate as it dates from 1986.

Jon Rathjen, Scottish Government: Scottish Water’s has moved from dumping sludge into the ocean as a waste until 2000, into making it a resource, with the Scotland’s wastewater sector now producing 3% of the nation’s energy needs as biogas from sludge digestion, with the sludge digestate mostly valorised in agriculture, and other sources as wind and solar.

Gudrun Winkler, Hamburg Wasser: the public operator manages Germany’s biggest wastewater treatment plant (150 million m3/y) operating sludge digestion and incineration. The plant is energy neutral since 2011, thanks to the VERA incineration plant processing 100 000 m3 of dried sludge/y, producing 89 GWh/y of electricity and 80 GWh/y of heat (before accounting the energy used to dry the sludge). Around 1 700 tP/y of phosphorus will be recovered as phosphoric acid from the sewage sludge incineration ash by the Remondis TetraPhos (now in production). The TetraPhos process also recovers iron/aluminium salts for recycling of phosphate precipitants to wastewater treatment.

Paolo Giandon, Veneto Region: Veneto has seen a reduction in the direct use of sewage sludge in agriculture observed since 2017 due to regulatory uncertainties and farmers’ mistrust. A waste management plan was therefore proposed by the Veneto region in 2022 to prioritise the reuse in agriculture, describing different sludge disposal routes (direct reuse in agriculture, composting, energy production) depending on sludge quality. Mr Giandon also mentioned challenges posed by the recast of the UWWTD, related to high cost and time needed for implementing the required measures.

Bertrand Vallet, European Commission, DG RTD, outlined the Commission’s research agenda on circularity. Circular economy was a key topic for the Horizon 2020 funding framework and was mainly focussed on resource recovery from wastewater and prevention of pollution. The current funding programme, Horizon Europe, is providing 655.5 million € for water in the 2021-2024 period, and is particularly focussed on harnessing the innovation potential and market uptake of successful circular economy examples, and on the implementation of large-scale circular systems for the reuse of water and sludge.

Two projects currently ongoing by APE members were then presented. The first one, presented by Enrico Pezzoli, Como Acqua, intends to build an anaerobic digestion plant in the Como area, co-financed under the Recovery Fund, treating sewage sludge, agri-food wastes, green wastes and the organic fraction of municipal solid waste. The Fanghi Project, presented by Marco Blazina, Metropolitana Milanese, and concluded in 2022, built a HTC pilot plant and a mono-incineration plant for sludge thermal valorisation and phosphorus recovery.

The seminar concluded with a panel discussion addressing the framework conditions to step up circularity. Veronica Santoro, ESPP, emphasised that a plurality of effective approaches to circularity already exist and presented concrete examples of phosphorus recovery in the wastewater sector. She also stressed the importance of communication and stakeholder engagement to ensure adequate societal support to circularity. David Bolzonella, University of Verona, agreed that there is a plurality of approaches available, and there is no silver bullet to solve the issue of sludge management. He also argued that society is moving away from an ‘end-of-pipe’ approach to wastewater and that treatment plants are being transformed into ‘bio-refineries’ capable of recovering precious substances. Despite this, end markets for these substances are not yet stable. In this regards, Bertrand Vallet highlighted the lack of a ‘critical mass’ or critical quantity of recovered materials that can underpin investments in supply chains. All panellists agreed that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to circularity, approaches can be combined according to contextual conditions, and political choices on the appropriate mix must be made at national and local level to bolster circularity.

“Circular ways: promoting circular approaches in wastewater treatment”, organised by Aqua Publica Europea with Viveracqua and Acque Veronesi, 29th June 2023

Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive Recast (26/10/2022); Sewage Sludge Directive evaluation (22/05/2023)

 

Research

 

US STEPS 25-in-25 Phosphorus Sustainability Roadmap

US Academy of Science funded (since 2021) phosphorus sustainability Center STEPS has published a 70-page Roadmap proposing a 25% reduction in dependence on mined phosphate and a 25% reduction in P losses within 25 years. The Roadmap outlines the phosphorus Problem, a Vision for phosphorus Sustainability and nine Opportunities for action. It underlines the challenges of rising global food demand, phosphate rock as a finite resource, inefficient phosphorus processing and use, legacy P trapped in soils and eutrophication leading to algal blooms. Action on phosphorus is situated in the global agendas of innovation and sustainability, emphasising the need to improve P monitoring, process animal and farm wastes, improve agricultural P efficiency, reduce phosphate rock mining waste and develop valuable products from P-recycling. The nine proposed actions are: improving agricultural P-use efficiency, processing farm wastes and particularly manure to fertilisers, recovering P to valuable products, reducing and recovering phosphate mining wastes, reducing food supply chain and food wastes, improving P-monitoring, developing markets for P-management solutions, engaging stakeholders to accelerate technology adoption, increasing public awareness. These nine actions are each detailed into short-term, medium and long-term sub-actions, The 33 sub-actions are organised by “stakeholder”: advocacy, academia and NGO, farmers, finance, food chain industry, regulators, waste & water industries, mining, media. An Appendix identifies over 90 “aggregated impact opportunities” proposed in other reports including Our Phosphorus Future (see ESPP eNews n°67), RePhoKUS, OCP Sustainability Report 2021, Water Research Foundation Holistic Approach to Nutrient Management 2022

STEPS “25-in-25: A Roadmap Toward U.S.Phosphorus Sustainability” Roadmap, May 2023 DOI.

 

Long-term P fertilisation reduces carbon sink function of a peatland

The C sink function weakened after P fertilisation due to increased ecosystem respiration, resulting from changes in vegetation composition and litter quality, increased enzyme activity, microbe metabolism and peat decomposition. The study was conducted in a peatland in northeastern China, where a 12-year experiment (2007-2019) mimicked environmental changes by adding different levels of P (5 and 10 kg ha-1 y-1) to the soil, to assess the impact of P fertilisation on CO2 emissions. The following were monitored for five months (May to September 2019) after the 12 years of P fertilisation: CO2 fluxes, soil total C, N and P, vegetation and plant cover, dissolved organic C in peat pore water, and activity potential of extracellular hydrolytic enzymes. Long-term P addition altered vegetation structure by inhibiting the growth of Sphagnum mosses and facilitating that of vascular plants, without significantly changing gross primary production relative to the controls. The shift in vegetation led to more high-quality litter and easily accessible C sources for microbes. This increased ecosystem respiration and boosted phenol oxidase enzyme activity, likely due to higher phenolic content in the plant litter. Consequently, the concentration of dissolved organic C in pore water increased, accelerating peat decomposition. Nitrogen metabolism enzyme activity increased, whereas phosphorus and carbon metabolism enzymes were unchanged. Additionally, fungal abundance increased in P-fertilised plots, potentially accelerating the breakdown of soil organic C and increasing CO2 emissions. As a result of these processes, the peatland's capacity to absorb CO2 was significantly reduced with P fertilisation. The average net CO2 uptake during the growing season was in fact only 0.002 at high level of P, compared to 0.063 mg/m2/s in the control plots.

“Long-Term Phosphorus Addition Strongly Weakens the Carbon Sink Function of a Temperate Peatland” F. Lu et al., Ecosystems (2022) DOI.

 

LCA impacts of wastewater-derived P products

Life Cycle Analysis suggests that partial substitution of rock-based P fertilisers with wastewater-derived P products reduces global warming, eutrophication, ecotoxicity, and acidification potential of crop production. The study assessed the life cycle environmental impacts, for a functional unit of producing 1 kg of crop, of replacing half of the conventional rock-based P fertilisers in maize, rice, and wheat production with P products derived from wastewaters from six different recovery routes. The considered wastewater treatment plant included activated sludge treatment and anaerobic sludge. The P recovery routes considered were: precipitation from digester supernatant (struvite or tricalcium phosphate) and P-recovery from sewage sludge mono-incineration ash (Rhenania phosphate or single superphosphate). The pathways and scenarios were evaluated based on literature data and inventories, databases, and modelling of P recovery integration into a wastewater treatment plant. Results indicate that wastewater-derived struvite, tricalcium phosphate, and Rhenania phosphate-like product can reduce environmental impacts in most scenarios, with the extent of change varying by crop. Eutrophication potential decreased in nearly all pathways and scenarios, because the LCA calculation assumed reduced P content in the wastewater treatment plant effluents. Conversely, processes involving thermo-chemical treatment and chemical extraction increased global warming potential and ecotoxicity in all scenarios, outweighing the benefits of avoiding conventional fertilisers due to additional chemical inputs and heating energy.

“Life Cycle Environmental Impacts of Wastewater-Derived Phosphorus Products: An Agricultural End-User Perspective” K. A. Lam et al., Environ. Sci. Technol.  (2022) DOI.

 

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Workshops and meetings
SOFIE3: call for presentations – open to 15th October
Recycled nutrients for Organic Farming
RAMIRAN – the manure and organic residues recycling conference
6th PERM becomes NERM (Nutrients in Europe Research Meeting)

Consultants – tenders
Consultant for EFSA dossier on Animal By-Products
EU tender: Animal By-Product (ABP) fertilisers

Policy
EU Soil Health Directive proposal
Regulation published: Animal By-Products (ABPs) in EU fertilising products
UK may change “Nutrient Neutrality” rules

Research
UKWIR report. Biosolids to land: carbon emissions and storage
Desired properties for end-users of recycled fertilisers
Terrestrial nutrient limitation significantly reduces global greenhouse carbon budget
New modelling questions benefits of ocean iron fertilisation
Effects of phosphorus addition on soil nitrogen dynamics
Sweden watershed: nutrient loss reduction targets require wetland restoration

Stay informed

ESPP members

 

Workshops and meetings

SOFIE3: call for presentations – open to 15th October

3rd Summit of Organic and organo-mineral Fertiliser Industries in Europe. 16-17 January 2024, Brussels Plaza & hybrid


SOFIE is the only industry meeting place for organic-carbon-based fertiliser producers, distributors, advisory, technology suppliers. The first SOFIE (2019) attracted 125 participants, with 230 for SOFIE2 (January 2023, photo below).

enews 78 1

SOFIE3 will cover:

  • policy and market
  • agronomic benefits, in particular field trials and case studies
  • processing from divers input materials to consistent products for farmers
  • application best practices, e.g. co-application with mineral fertilisers, biostimulants
  • environment, carbon benefits, LCA, Circular Economy
  • business models and product success stories

Short proposals for presentations, company showcases or posters should be sent by 15th October to : see details HERE.

www.phosphorusplatform.eu/SOFIE2024

SOFIE3 is co-organised by ESPPEurofema and Fertilizers Europe, with support of the International Fertiliser Society.

 

Recycled nutrients for Organic Farming

enews 78 2Monday 18th September 2023, 14h – 17h, online

Co-organised by IFOAM Europe and ESPP.

Registration is free and is open to representatives of Organic Farming organisations from across Europe.

Full meeting agenda HERE. Registration: Eventbrite.

 

RAMIRAN – the manure and organic residues recycling conference

enews 78 312-14 September 2023, Cambridge, UK

The “Recycling of Agricultural, Municipal and Industrial Residues in Agriculture Network” (RAMIRAN) expertise and research network, established 25 years ago, expects over 200 delegates at its 18th international conference. Themes addressed include policy and regulation (including ESPP update on EU policies and regulations), recycled and organic nutrient crop utilisation, soil quality, air and water nutrient losses, treatment and processing technologies and best practices. Speakers include the UK ministry DEFRA, Chinese Academy of Sciences, ADAS, TEAGASC, Wageningen WUR, University of Minnesota, OCAPI Paris, ESPP. The conference will lead to a Frontiers special issue in Sustainable Food Systems – Waste Management in Agroecosystems. (abstract submission: 30th September 2023)

RAMIRAN 2023, 12-14 September, Cambridge UK https://ramiran2023.org/

 

6th PERM becomes NERM (Nutrients in Europe Research Meeting)

Save the date. NERM – 16-17 April 2024 – Brussels & online – plus research students meeting & site visits.

NERM (Nutrients in Europe Research Meeting) is organised by ESPP, FERTIMANURE, LEX4BIO, RUSTICA, SEA2LAND, WALNUT and Biorefine Cluster Europe. Towards closing nutrient cycles for a sustainable future, from R&D to implementation.
- key outcomes of recent nutrient recycling R&D under Horizon 2020, LIFE, Interreg and other programmes
- roadmap for future nutrient recycling R&D needs
- nutrient recovery technologies and recycled fertiliser production
- quality, application and use, stakeholder acceptance of secondary fertilisers
- from nutrient recovery to market

Plus PhD / research students event April 15th 2024 and site visits (on-farm and sewage treatment nutrient recovery sites).

Call for abstracts and outline programme will be published in September 2023.
NERM, 16-17 April 2024, Brussels https://phosphorusplatform.eu/nerm

 

Consultants – tenders

 

Consultant for EFSA dossier on Animal By-Products

ESPP is looking for a regulatory consultant to prepare a dossier on Cat1 ABP ashes for input to EFSA (European Food Safety Agency) on possible use of Cat1 ashes and derivates in fertilisers, in particular prion safety.

See relevant background documents at www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory

Full details of services requested HERE. To express interest, please contact ESPP before 15th September 2023.

 

EU tender: Animal By-Product (ABP) fertilisers

European Commission (DG GROW) tender to assess agronomic efficiency and safety for use of certain ABPs in fertilising products, as per art. 51-1(b) of the EU Fertilising Products Regulation 2019/2009. Budget 120 000 €. Submission deadline 18th September 2023. The study does NOT concern health safety aspects which are assessed by EFSA (European Food Safety Agency, see ESPP eNews n°61). It does concern environmental safety and worker safety, for use as or in fertilising products, and “agronomic efficiency” either in itself in a fertilising product or to facilitate production of effective fertilising products. The study covers (i) materials listed in the DG SANTE Delegated Act (not yet published, see C(2023) 3366 here) and (ii) twelve other ABP materials specified in the tender documents. The study does NOT cover “Processed Manure” (as defined in the EU Animal By-Product Regulations) because this is being assessed separately by JRC. Also, the study does NOT cover ABPs in composts, digestates, Cat. 2-3 ashes which are included in the Delegated Act (art. 3 a, b, c) because (to ESPP’s understanding) these are covered by CMCs 3, 5, 13 and so will not be added to CMC10 (the tender specifies that it concerns ABPs to “include in CMC 10”).

EU tender “Technical study to include new materials in CMC 10 to the Fertilising Products Regulation”, GROW/2023/OP/0027. Submission deadline 18th September 2023 HERE.

Policy

 

EU Soil Health Directive proposal

Public consultation open to 26th October 2023. Possibility to input plain text comments (max. 4 000 characters) plus document. https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/13350-Soil-health-protecting-sustainably-managing-and-restoring-EU-soils_en

 

Regulation published: Animal By-Products (ABPs) in EU fertilising products

The EU Regulation amending the Animal By-Products Regulations to allow use of certain ABPs in CE-Mark fertilising products is now published. This establishes ‘End Points’ under the Animal By-Products Regulations for a number of ABP materials for use in fertilising products without traceability (the EU Fertilising Products Regulations FPR provide CE-Mark fertilisers with ‘End-of-Waste’ and product status), whereas currently these materials can be authorised for use under national fertilisers regulations but only subject to traceability.

The published amending Regulation is essentially as proposed to public consultation in October 2022 (see ESPP eNews n°70) and covers, under specified conditions:

  • Cat2 and Cat3 ABP ashes
  • Composts
  • Biogas digestates
  • “Processed” manure and insect frass (“processed” as defined in the ABP Regulations)
  • Certain (as specified) Cat3 materials, glycerine, processed animal protein, meat and bone meal, blood, hoof, horn products

It is ESPP’s understanding that:

  • the inclusion of these materials into the EU Fertilising Products Regulation CMC10 requires also modification by a Commission Delegated Regulation of the EU FPR and this is delayed to at least end 2023 for “Processed Manure” and at least end 2024 for the other ABPs cited, because environmental safety assessments are legally required. These are being launched (see EU tender above)
  • nonetheless, manure (and other specified Cat. 2 and 3 ABPs) are now already today authorised as input materials to EU fertilising product composts, digestates, precipitated phosphates, ash-based materials and pyrolysis materials (CMCs 3, 5, 12, 13, 14), following publication of the ABP amending Regulation on 8th August and subject to the processing criteria specified in this Regulation. ESPP will ask that this be clarified in the EU Commission’s FPR Frequently Asked Questions document.

European Commission Delegated Regulation 2023/1065 of 22 May 2023 published in the EU Official Journal 8th August 2023 “supplementing Regulation (EC) No 1069/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the determination of end points in the manufacturing chain of certain organic fertilisers and soil improvers” https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv%3AOJ.L_.2023.198.01.0001.01.ENG

 

UK may change “Nutrient Neutrality” rules

The UK Government has announced its intention to relax requirements that building of new houses in catchments of protected natural areas must be “Nutrient Neutral”. Current requirements are derived from EU case law concerning protection of Natural (Habitats Directive) areas from eutrophication (detail in ESPP eNews n°59 and n°35). The EU case law effectively requires that any action in the catchment (from building houses to grazing cattle) must only be authorised if it is demonstrated “there is no reasonable scientific doubt as to the lack of adverse effects” on the Natura site. Currently the UK regulator prevents any new house build in catchments of Natura areas impacted by eutrophication unless compensatory measures are engaged, such as creating wetlands as nutrient buffers, or reducing nutrient emissions from farms or sewage works. The UK Home Builders Federation (HBF) claims (30th June 2023)145,000 homes currently blocked. Rivers increasingly polluted. SME builders threatened despite no link between house building and river pollution. Builders forced to fallow farmland and trout farms to comply with rules, threatening food security”. The UK Wildlife Trusts say (24th July 2023) that the proposed UK “Environment Act” would  fix the target to reduce P, N and sediment losses by 40% by 2038, with upgrades to wastewater treatment works and review and expansion of environmental permits controlling pollution from farming, so creating “the necessary headroom that will mean that housing development will no longer have to worry about nutrients”.

“Pollution rules could change to ease housebuilding”, BBC 29th August 2023.

“Policy paper. Nutrient pollution: reducing the impact on protected sites”, UK Government, 28th June 2023.

 

Research

 

UKWIR report. Biosolids to land: carbon emissions and storage

Literature and expert assessment concludes that treated sewage sludge (biosolids) use can reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture, improve soil quality and reduce mineral fertiliser use, but underlines lack of long-term data. The 117-page report considers different sewage sludge treatment processes (drying/liming, composting, digestion, pyrolysis = biochar) and analyses carbon loss and soil carbon storage, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse emissions in land application, fertiliser replacement. Part of the organic carbon in sewage sludge is lost or transformed in sewage treatment (e.g. conversion to biogas in anaerobic digestion). Around 25% of carbon in sludge is estimated to be retained in soil after 11 – 34 years, resulting in an average increase in SOC (soil organic carbon) of c. 14% after repeated biosolids application. The report reminds that the SOC capacity of soils is limited, so that long-term repeated applications will eventually not further increase SOC. No studies were identified as providing evidence of impacts of sewage sludge biochars on soil carbon storage. Nitrous oxide emissions from land application of digested sludge are estimated at 0.6% of applied N-total – somewhat lower than the 1% factor currently used in the UK GHG Inventory (emissions are much lower after composting or pyrolysis). Nearly 90% of UK sewage sludge is currently applied to agricultural land after treatment (3 – 4 Mt biosolids/y), supplying c. 5 600 tN/y, 37 500 tP/y, 2 400 tK/y and 28 000 tS/y, representing a saving of c. 33 000 t/y carbon emissions. The report concludes that available evidence supports that appropriate agricultural use of treated sewage sludge (biosolids) is environmentally beneficial, but that there is a lack of data from long-term field studies, and in particular inadequate data on nitrous oxide emissions, ammonia emissions and nitrate leaching from biosolids land use, soil organic carbon retention, use of sewage sludge biochar.

“Biosolids to land: carbon emissions and carbon capture”, report no. 23/CL/01/38, UKWIR (UK Water Industry Research), 2023. UKWIR research reports online https://ukwir.org/water-industry-research-reports

 

Desired properties for end-users of recycled fertilisers

Survey in seven European countries suggests that reliably known nutrient levels, organic matter content, cost, and ease of application of are the most desirable properties.

The survey was conducted among stakeholders (farmers and advisors) in seven North-West European countries to understand which qualities they consider important in recycled-derived fertilisers and would encourage them to use these to substitute mineral fertilisers. The survey indicated that recycled-derived fertiliser means processed organic wastes or products from these, including from manures, food waste, green waste or sewage sludge. This will mean that the results are biased because mainly persons already informed or motivated will have responded. The authors fail to mention this inherent bias anywhere in the paper. Most of the 1225 participants responded from France, Belgium and Ireland, and over 80% were farmers (mostly conventional farming) with the remaining 20% from horticulture, agricultural companies and research. In the farmers’ view, the most important parameter for the selection of a fertiliser was good quality at good price, whereas other stakeholders were more interested in the nutrient content, composition and availability. Nutrient ratio corresponding to crop nutrient demand was the most noted quality for users, followed by a high organic matter content, whereas non-users preferred qualities were price per unit nutrient, ease of use and environmental security. 46% of participants also indicated that a known NPK concentration was the most important reason why they would substitute mineral fertilisers, highlighting that high variability in nutrient composition of recycled fertilising materials is often the reason behind farmers' choice of synthetic mineral fertilisers. Over 80% of respondents indicated that if recycled fertilisers had the desired important qualities, they were willing to substitute mineral fertilisers if the recycled fertilisers were subsidised and free of charge or cheaper than mineral fertilisers, whereas less than 20% were willing to substitute if they were slightly more expensive than mineral fertilisers.

“What are the desired properties of recycling-derived fertilisers from an end-user perspective?”, A. Egan et al., Cleaner and Responisble Consumption 5, 100057 (2022), DOI

 

Terrestrial nutrient limitation significantly reduces global greenhouse carbon budget

Modelled climate scenarios were compared without terrestrial nutrient limitation in the model (C), with nitrogen (N) limitation and with nitrogen and phosphorus (NP) limitation. The University of Victoria Earth System Climate Model was used and carbon emission budgets to limit global warming to +1.5°C or +2°C were modelled. Results suggest that the carbon budget would be c. 20% lower in both cases for N limitation, and c. 25% lower for NP limitation. Phosphorus is considered less limiting in tropical regions. These results are coherent with Peng et al. 2022 (see ESPP eNews n°77) who concluded that P limitation could reduce global carbon CO2 uptake by 7.5%.

“Effect of terrestrial nutrient limitation on the estimation of the remaining carbon budget”, M. De Sisto & A. MacDougall, Biogesciences Discussions 2023, DOI.

 

New modelling questions benefits of ocean iron fertilisation

Iron dosing to open oceans has been proposed as a route to stimulate algae growth, and so carbon sequestration. New study suggests that global consequences may be negative, because resulting uptake of major nutrients reduces supplies in coastal waters and reducing carbon uptake there as well as possibly impacting ecosystems and fisheries. Phytoplankton growth in open ocean surface waters is often limited by iron, especially in zones of nutrient upwelling, so iron dosing can increase primary production, so absorbing atmospheric CO2 which may then be sequestered as part of the biomass sinks to deeper waters. This study models impacts of global ocean iron fertilisation, in the context of climate change, using the PISCESv2 (within NEMO) and APECOSM oceanographic and IPSL CMSA climate models, under the CMIP5 RCP8.5 high emissions scenario. This shows that iron fertilisation is likely to exacerbate a key impact of climate change which is to deplete upper ocean waters of nutrients because of stratification (heating of the upper layer reduces vertical mixing). The modelling concludes that global ocean iron fertilisation would result in reductions in upper ocean water animal biomass, in particular in tropical regions, including in coastal ecosystems, with possible negative impacts on fisheries, and possibly overall limited or net negative global impact on primary production and carbon sequestration. These effects occur only after a delay of maybe two decades with ocean currents so that short-term or local monitoring of ocean iron fertilisation may not provide transposable results.

“Ocean iron fertilization may amplify climate change pressures on marine animal biomass for limited climate benefit”, A. Tagliabue et al., Glob Change Biol. 2023;29:5250–5260, DOI

 

Effects of phosphorus addition on soil nitrogen dynamics

A global meta-analysis suggests that P fertilisation increases the soil total N pool, enhances biological nutrient immobilisation, reduces N losses, accelerates soil N cycling and could enhance soil C sequestration.

Over 1700 observations from 116 peer-reviewed publications were analysed to assess the effects of P addition on soil N pools and cycling processes and how these vary among ecosystem types and P fertiliser management schemes. Data were limited to studies reporting clear information on P addition rate and duration and including both a control and a P-addition treatment, and covered mainly field tests. Data was from across the world, but with most coming from Asia and North America. The factors considered were related to soil N pools (soil total N, NO3-, NH4+, dissolved inorganic and organic N, microbial biomass N), N cycling (mineralisation, nitrification, denitrification, ammonification, N2O emission, NO3- leaching), and P and C soil pools. The analysis underlined the role of P fertilisation in increasing the soil total N pool in field experiments, particularly after long term P addition (≥5 yr). This was potentially the result of increased plant N uptake (as evidenced by the increase in plant productivity and decrease in available soil N pools), enhanced biological N fixation and reduced N losses (NO3- leaching). The accumulation of soil total N was coupled with an increase in the soil C pool size, suggesting a role of P in promoting soil C sequestration. Phosphorus addition also accelerated some of the soil N cycling processes, including N mineralisation (especially in grasslands), nitrification, and denitrification (in forests and wetlands) with the effect sizes varying among ecosystem types and increasing with P fertilisation rates. No impacts on N2O emissions were observed.

“Phosphorus supply increases nitrogen transformation rates and retention in soil: A global meta-analysis” R. Wang et al., Earth's Future, 10, e2021EF002479, 2022 DOI

 

Sweden watershed: nutrient loss reduction targets require wetland restoration

Modelling of nutrient losses with climate change in two small Swedish catchments suggests that Green Deal -50% nutrient loss reduction targets will require conversion of c. 1% of cropland to wetland / nutrient buffers. Hestadbäcken catchment (8 km2), centre-east Sweden, and Tullstorpsån (62 km2), south Sweden, both mainly agricultural, were modelled for nutrient losses, including under climate change scenarios. Modelling considered a 20% reduction in fertiliser application, cover crops and “stream mitigation” consisting of reconversion of agricultural land to wetland or buffer zones along streams. Conclusions are, in both cases, that around 1% of catchment cropland area must be converted to stream mitigation to achieve the Green Deal nutrient loss reduction target, other measures being insufficient. Modelling suggests that climate change could lead to a slight increase in P loss to the streams, related to increased precipitation, and either an increase or decrease in inorganic N loss depending on the balance between increased runoff, evapotranspiration and increased N mineralisation. In particular, high rainfall events are likely to increase, and measures are needed to prevent these leading to nutrient losses to the stream, such as a low threshold barrier to prevent wetland floodwaters entering the stream.

“How to Achieve a 50% Reduction in Nutrient Loads from Agricultural Catchments under Different Climate Trajectories?”, M. Wynants et al., Authorea. 2023, DOI.

 

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ESPP members

ESPP member logos 21.08.23 page 0001

The EU Regulation amending the Animal By-Products Regulations to allow use of certain ABPs in CE-Mark fertilising products is now published. This establishes ‘End Points’ under the Animal By-Products Regulations for a number of ABP materials for use in fertilising products without traceability (the EU Fertilising Products Regulations FPR provide CE-Mark fertilisers with ‘End-of-Waste’ and product status), whereas currently these materials can be authorised for use under national fertilisers regulations but only subject to traceability.

The published amending Regulation is essentially as proposed to public consultation in October 2022 (see ESPP eNews n°70) and covers, under specified conditions:

  • Cat2 and Cat3 ABP ashes
  • Composts
  • Biogas digestates
  • “Processed” manure and insect frass (“processed” as defined in the ABP Regulations)
  • Certain (as specified) Cat3 materials, glycerine, processed animal protein, meat and bone meal, blood, hoof, horn products

It is ESPP’s understanding that:

  • the inclusion of these materials into the EU Fertilising Products Regulation CMC10 requires also modification by a Commission Delegated Regulation of the EU FPR and this is delayed to at least end 2023 for “Processed Manure and at least end 2024 for the other ABPs cited, because of environmental safety assessments are legally required. These are being launched (see EU tender see below)
  • nonetheless, manure (and other specified Cat. 2 and 3 ABPs) are now already today, following publication of the ABP amending Regulation on 8th August and subject to the processing criteria specified in this Regulation, authorised as input materials to EU fertilising product composts, digestates, precipitated phosphates, ash-based materials and pyrolysis materials (CMCs 3, 5, 12, 13, 14). ESPP will ask that this be clarified in the EU Commission’s FPR Frequently Asked Questions document.

European Commission Delegated Regulation 2023/1065 of 22 May 2023 published in the EU Official Journal 8th August 2023 “supplementing Regulation (EC) No 1069/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the determination of end points in the manufacturing chain of certain organic fertilisers and soil improvers” https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv%3AOJ.L_.2023.198.01.0001.01.ENG

European Commission (DG GROW) tender to assess agronomic efficiency and safety for use of certain ABPs in fertilising products of certain ABPs, ss per art. 51-1(b) of the EU Fertilising Products Regulation 2019/2009. Budget 120 000 €. Submission deadline 18th September 2023. The study does NOT concern health safety aspects which are assessed by EFSA (European Food Safety Agency, see ESPP eNews n°61). It concerns environmental safety and worker safety, for use as or in fertilising products, and “agronomic efficiency” either in itself in a fertilising product or to facilitate production of effective fertilising products. The study covers (i) materials listed in the DG SANTE Delegated Act (not yet published, see C(2023) 3366 here) and (ii) twelve other ABP materials specified in the tender documents. The study does NOT cover “Processed Manure” (as defined in the EU Animal By-Product Regulations) because this is being assessed separately by JRC. Also, the study does NOT cover ABPs in composts, digestates, Cat. 2-3 ashes which are included in the Delegated Act (art. 3 a, b, c) because (to ESPP’s understanding) these are covered by CMCs 3, 5, 13 and so will not be added to CMC10 (the tender specifies that it concerns ABPs to “include in CMC 10”).

EU tender “Technical study to include new materials in CMC 10 to the Fertilising Products Regulation”, GROW/2023/OP/0027. Submission deadline 18th September 2023 HERE.

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

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SOFIE3: call for presentations & company showcases
3rd Summit of Organic and organo-mineral Fertiliser Industries in Europe

Which recycled nutrients for Organic Farming? And why?
Monday 18th September 2023, 14h–17h, online

Looking for consultant for EFSA dossier
ESPP is looking for a regulatory consultant to prepare a dossier on Cat1 ABP ashes

Research prizes and partner searches
1st German Phosphorus Platform DPP P-recycling thesis prize
IFS 9th Brian Chambers crop nutrition research prize
Partners wanted for consortium for EU Horizon Europe proposal

Policy
EU Soil Health Directive proposal
Evaluation of EU Sewage Sludge Directive published
EU proposed food waste reduction targets and actions
International Chamber of Commerce flags need to address obstacles to circularity
Draft of Guidance Document for EU FPR Technical Documentation

Research
Phosphorus limitation could limit CO2 uptake by 7.5% globally
Filter media for phosphorus capture from domestic wastewaters
Recirculating struvite for nitrogen removal

Nitrogen recycling
ESPP summary of nitrogen recovery perspectives in Fertilizer Focus

Sewage sludge biochars as fertilisers
ESPP – EBI workshop at the Biochar Summit Helsingborg

Stay informed

ESPP members

 

SOFIE3: call for presentations & company showcases

3rd Summit of Organic and organo-mineral Fertiliser Industries in Europe

16-17 January 2024, Brussels Plaza & hybrid

SOFIE is the only industry meeting place for organic-carbon-based fertiliser producers, distributors, advisory, technology suppliers. The first SOFIE (2019) attracted 125 participants, with 230 for SOFIE2 (January 2023, photo below).

sofie3 stanza        logo sofie

SOFIE3 will cover:

  • policy and market
  • agronomic benefits, in particular field trials and case studies
  • processing from divers input materials to consistent products for farmers
  • application best practices, e.g. co-application with mineral fertilisers, biostimulants
  • environment, carbon benefits, LCA, Circular Economy
  • business models and product success stories

Short proposals for presentations, company showcases or posters should be sent by 15th October to : see details HERE.

www.phosphorusplatform.eu/SOFIE2024

SOFIE3 is co-organised by ESPPEurofema and Fertilizers Europe, with support of the International Fertiliser Society.

Which recycled nutrients for Organic Farming? And why?

Monday 18th September 2023, 14h - 17h, online

Co-organised by IFOAM Europe and ESPP.

ifoam

Participants: representatives of Organic Farming organisations from across Europe.

Recycled struvite and precipitated phosphates have been added into the list of authorised inputs as fertilisers in certified EU Organic Farming (ESPP eNews n°73). Certain other recycled nutrients are already authorised with conditions.

This meeting will discuss which further recycled nutrient products might be appropriate for certified Organic Farming, based on practical examples, and under what conditions they might be considered. Questions considered: solubility and plant availability of nutrients, origin of raw materials, chemicals used in recovery process and LCA, contaminants and safety. Examples will be: calcined phosphates, biochars, phosphate fertilisers from ashes, recovered ammonium sulphate, recovered nutrients from aquaculture and other marine wastes.

Full meeting agenda HERE. Registration: Eventbrite.

Looking for consultant for EFSA dossier

ESPP is looking for a regulatory consultant to prepare a dossier on Cat1 ABP ashes

The European Commission (DG SANTE) has indicated that it will request from EFSA (European Food Safety Agency) an Opinion on the safety of possible use of Cat1 ashes and derivates in fertilisers. EFSA are susceptible to consider that the Brown et al. studies (2000, 2004, see ESPP eNews n°73) suggest possible prion infectivity after combustion, even in the absence of residual organic carbon or protein. ESPP organised an online meeting of companies and experts on Cat1 ash safety (22nd May 2023), including two co-authors of these studies. This meeting concluded that there are today no practicable methods to reliably test ash samples to show absence of prion infectivity and no experimental evidence of elimination of infectivity by combustion under EU Industrial Emission Directive conditions. The meeting therefore proposed to develop a dossier of evidence to input to EFSA based on input material risk and on epidemiological data. ESPP is looking for a service provider to collect data and prepare a dossier to submit to EFSA, and also to support coordination with concerned companies and organisations.

See relevant background documents at www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory

Full details of services requested HERE. To express interest, please contact ESPP before 15th September 2023.

Research prizes and partner searches

1st German Phosphorus Platform DPP P-recycling thesis prize

1000 € prize for an undergraduate or master thesis, obtained in Germany, on phosphorus recovery.

Submission deadline 1st September 2023. “Förderpreis der Deutschen Phosphor-Plattform DPP” here.

IFS 9th Brian Chambers crop nutrition research prize

The International Fertiliser Society prize (UK£ 1000 plus 2 x UK£ 500) rewards completed or advanced research (PhD / MSc level) susceptible to make a practical contribution to improving crop nutrition. Application form (one page) and information on previous prize winners is here.

Submission deadline: 30th September 2023. IFS Brian Chambers International Award for Early Career Researchers in Crop Nutrition. HERE.

Partners wanted for consortium for EU Horizon Europe proposal

German research institutes FBN and AWI are searching for European partners for a consortium for the Horizon Europe Call “Demonstrating how regions can operate within safe ecological and regional nitrogen and phosphorus boundaries” (HORIZON-CL6-2024-ZEROPOLLUTION-01-1), planned call opening date 17 October 2023. The project will explore material flow scenarios and management of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) and develop measures to avoid unwanted losses, including recycling N and P from wastes and sewage sludge, improving N-binding in soils and plants. The consortium is looking for expertise in resource governance, circular economy, crop production, soil science, waste and environmental management, ecosystem modelling, and companies who have expertise in sewage sludge treatment and in recycled fertilisers or animal feed.

Research Institute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN) and Alfred-Wegener-Institute (AWI). Contacts: Michael Oster and Cédric Meunier

Policy

EU Soil Health Directive proposal

Proposed Directive will specify descriptors for monitoring and assessing soil health (including soil P and N) to be implemented / defined  nationally by “soil district”, within a non-regulatory objective of achieving healthy soils by 2050 (as announced in the Commission document “EU Soil Strategy for 2030” 17/11/2021). The Directive is currently open for public consultation to 18th September and will go to European Parliament and Council (Member States) for decision.

The proposed Directive will install an EU-wide monitoring of soil health, and of soil artificialisation (“land take”). Outline parameters are specified, but thresholds will be defined (if not indicated) or can be adapted by Member States (MS), according to “soil districts”, which MS must also define. This looks superficially similar to the functioning of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), but in fact is very different in that the WFD fixes legal obligations and deadlines for MS to achieve Good Quality Status / Potential for water bodies, whereas this proposed Directive only refers to the 2050 objective in the recitals. Also the WFD quality criteria, for different ecoregions / water body types, are fixed at the EU level, not by MS. Unlike the WFD, there is no provision for local governance to involve civil society and stakeholders in “soil districts”. The proposed Directive also defines sustainable soil management principles, opens possibilities for certification schemes for healthy soils, and defines obligations concerning contaminated sites.

ESPP’s input to the preparatory consultations underlined that soil health is key to protecting water quality by limiting nutrient loss, that climate change will accentuate nutrient pressures on soil health (accelerated nutrient mineralisation, increased soil erosion, both leading to nutrient losses) and that nutrient recycling can support soil health by return of organic carbon (organic fertilisers, composts, digestates, biosolids) subject to ensuring contaminant safety.

The proposal refers to the EU Green Deal (Farm-to-Fork and Biodiversity Strategies) aim to reduce nutrient losses by 50% without deterioration of soil fertility. Nutrients cycling is identified as a key aspect of healthy soils (Recitals 2). In the parameter thresholds in Annex I (Soil Descriptors for Health Soil Condition …), soil phosphorus and soil nitrogen are specified as two of the eleven criteria. Excess phosphorus must, for the whole EU (Annex I part A), have a maximum value set by the MS, such that this maximum is between 30 and 50 mg/kg (Annex II specifies measurement as extractable phosphorus by ISO 11263:1994 = Olsen-P). Excess nitrogen levels may also be defined by MS if causing “critical loss of ecosystem services” (art. 9.3, Annex I part C: total soil N, measurement by ISO 11261:1995 Kjeldahl N).

Public consultation open to 18th September 2023. Possibility to input plain text comments (max. 4 000 characters) plus document. https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/13350-Soil-health-protecting-sustainably-managing-and-restoring-EU-soils_en

Evaluation of EU Sewage Sludge Directive published

European Commission evaluation of 1986 Sewage Sludge Directive concludes that it should be maintained but should be updated to cover organic contaminants, microplastics, AMR and to better ensure application according to crop needs. The formal “Evaluation” is the first step towards a possible proposal to revise or recast the Directive. The evaluation is based on analysis of literature, Member States reporting, a public consultation, surveys, a stakeholder workshop and interviews (including with ESPP). The evaluation notes that of 7-8 Mt/y sewage sludge (dry matter) produced in the EU today*, c. 40% is valorised in agriculture plus 10% “composted” (ESPP comment: probably also then used in agriculture or for other soil improvement applications). Incineration of this sludge would cost an additional 390 – 490 M€/y (from Egle unpublished). Use of sewage sludge to substitute fertiliser nutrients can save farmers maybe 96 plus 44 €/tDS sludge (for N and P respectively). The evaluation notes that current Member States reporting does not enable to verify that crop nutrient needs are taken into account in sewage sludge application, whereas this is necessary to avoid risks of nutrient pollution. The evaluation concludes that the Directive aims to  encourage the use of sewage sludge in agriculture whilst preventing negative environmental or health impacts, that it continues to have EU added value and to be relevant and supported by stakeholders, but that it should be reviewed to consider regulating organic contaminants (in particular PFAS, PAH), pathogens and antimicrobial resistance (AMR), pharmaceuticals and microplastics. It is underlined that sludge management choices relate to local situations, and that maintaining the flexibility of choice for sludge management is important.

SWD(2023)158, 22nd May 2023, Evaluation of Council Directive 86/278/EEC on sewage sludge used in agriculture. HERE. * correct numbers are page 53, wrongly stated as 2-3 Mt/y in the Executive summary page 1.

EU proposed food waste reduction targets and actions

Amendments to the EU Waste Framework Directive, as proposed by the European Commission, would fix targets to reduce food waste by 2030: -10% for food manufacture and processing, -30% for households. Member States must define Food Waste reduction programmes, including the following actions: behavioural change campaigns, actions to address supply chain inefficiencies, food donation systems, skills training, funding for SMEs and social economy actors. The proposed amendments to the Directive are currently open to public consultation to 4th September and will go to European Parliament and Council for decision.

“Revision of EU Waste Framework”, public consultation open to 4th September 2023. Possibility to input plain text comments (max. 4 000 characters) plus document. https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/13225-Environmental-impact-of-waste-management-revision-of-EU-waste-framework_en

International Chamber of Commerce flags need to address obstacles to circularity

ICC position says international waste transport regulations need modification to enable movement of secondary resources for recycling pilots and that quality of products should determine regulation, not origin of input materials. EasyMining (Ragn-Sells) Ash2Phos (recovery of phosphorus from sewage sludge ash) is one of four case studies: it took eight months to obtain permits from Denmark and Sweden to transport just one tonne of ash across the border for pilot trials. The Basel convention limits transboundary transport of waste for research to only 25 kg, inadequate to develop industrial pilot processes. ICC calls for consultation of business in improving waste international regulations, regulatory facilitation of storage of wastes containing resources to be recovered later when technologies have progressed, removal of barriers and creation of incentives for circularity and prioritisation of quality over origin (product quality should determine regulation of use, trade and transport, rather than origin). A presentation by Shunta Yamaguchi, OECD, at WCEF2023 identified as ways forward: clarification of definitions and classification of wastes and secondary raw materials, harmonisation and mutual acceptance of circular economy related standards, cross-border reverse supply chains, removing trade restrictions on waste trade whilst tackling illegal waste trade.

OECD publications on Trade, Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy.
World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF), 1st June 2023 How to remove hurdles on research waste shipments
International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), 2023 Circular material flows for research and innovation

Draft of Guidance Document for EU FPR Technical Documentation

NMI has published a 69-page first draft of the future Guidance Document for elaboration of Technical Documentation for the EU Fertilising Products Regulation. The document includes  an inventory of relevant documents (guidance documents for other EU regulations, documents of industry associations) and outlines the documents and information which are necessary for Conformity Assessment of EU fertilising products (CE-mark) as a function of different PFCs, CMCs, Conformity Assessment modules. A stakeholder workshop to discuss this Guidance is planned for 17th October 2023 for information: contact.

“Technical study on the elaboration of the technical documentation for the FPR” Inception report, NMI Netherlands, 17th May 2023, 1935.N.22a HERE. This Guidance Document is commissioned by the European Commission (see tender announced in ESPP eNews n°66) but this is not indicated in this draft.

Research 

Phosphorus limitation could limit CO2 uptake by 7.5% globally

Climate models predict an increase in net CO2 fixing with increasing atmospheric CO2 and increasing biological activity linked to temperature, but this could be reduced by phosphorus limitation, not considered in current models. This study used the CABLE (Community Atmosphere Biosphere Land Exchange model) including the global biogeochemical model (CASA-CNP) and meteorological inputs from GCP-TRENDY to estimate net CO2 fixing with consideration of only C and N cycles, or also with P, under the climate “business as usual” scenario RCP8.5. This scenario implies a global temperature rise of 5.7°C and an increase in atmospheric CO2 of +250% from today’s levels. Phosphorus limitation is estimated to reduce net ecosystem biomass production (net carbon fixing) by 15% per year in China by 2060 (with a reduction in cumulated fixed carbon over the coming four decades of >11% for China), and by over 7.5% per year worldwide (cumulated >5%).

“Phosphorus Limitation on Carbon Sequestration in China under RCP8.5”, J. Peng et al., Advances in Atmospheric Sciences 2023 DOI.

Filter media for phosphorus capture from domestic wastewaters

Filtration columns filled with different configurations of Rockfos® and Leca® material were tested on real domestic wastewater to assess phosphate capture during a two-year experiment. Biologically treated wastewater (~7 mg P/l, pH ~7) was filtered with mixtures of Rockfos® (a CaO and SiO2-rich material produced from carbonate-siliceous rock) and Leca® (a light expanded clay aggregate material), with a total of 20 litres of filter material. Applied flow rates were 20 and 40 l/day, with a retention time of 12 and 6h, respectively. The combination of 90% Rockfos® with 10% Leca® was identified as optimal among the tested options, and high phosphate (PO4) removal efficiency (~94%) was obtained for all columns tested at 20 l/day flow rate and 12 h retention time, reducing phosphorus to 0.4 mg P-PO4/l in the effluent. Lower removal (~80%, ~1.70 mg P-PO4/l) was obtained at 40 l/day inflow rate, due to reduced contact time. For these reasons, authors suggest to use 1 m3 of these filter materials for 1 m3/day of wastewater throughflow when designing P-removal systems. The filtration columns performed better during the first 250 days of testing, due to the high availability of reactive Ca2+ on grain surfaces. In the later stages of the test, removal efficiency decreased and was particularly low at inflowing temperature below 10°C, because of the slower chemical processes of phosphate precipitation in the filters. The alkaline characteristic of the filter material resulted in treated wastewater outflow initially at pH12 and still at pH9 after 300 days, which could be incompatible with discharge constraints. As indicated in Scope Newsletter n°138, challenges in implementation are the pH of the treated water, and selecting materials which can be recycled as a fertilising material after phosphorus uptake (plant availability of the phosphorus, low levels of contaminants).

“Long-term operating conditions for different sorption materials to capture phosphate from domestic wastewater” A. Jucherski et al., Sustainable Materials and Technologies 31, e00385 (2022), DOI. See also Gubernat et al. in Scope Newsletter n°138

Recirculating struvite for nitrogen removal

Lab and pilot tests of struvite redissolution using calcium hydroxide Ca(OH)2 then sulphuric acid aim to enable application of struvite precipitation to remove ammonia from coal coking water with posssible ammonia recovery. Coking water contains organic compounds and ammonia nitrogen (TAN), and biological treatment often fails to achieve TAN discharge limits. Struvite precipitation is a robust route for TAN removal, but consumption of phosphorus and magnesium are cost prohibitive. Here a process to recycle the struvite back to soluble P and Mg compounds using low-cost chemicals (calcium hydroxide, sulphuric acid) was tested at the lab scale (30 g of struvite produced by precipitation from coking water) and then continuous pilot using coking water. The ammonia driven off could potentially be recovered. The struvite was first dissolved using calcium hydroxide solution, with aeration to drive off released ammonia. Increasing temperature, molar ratio (calcium hydroxide:ammonia) and aeration rate increased ammonia release efficiency, achieving 85% - 90% release at molar ratio 2:1, 35°C and gas-liquid ratio of 3500 (reaction time not specified). 9M sulphuric acid was then used to “activate” the struvite dissolution products by reducing pH to 2.5 - 3, resulting in soluble magnesium phosphate and precipitation of gypsum (calcium sulphate) – this is a comparable reaction to acid attack of phosphate rock. A pilot struvite reactor (20l hydraulic residence time 1 hour plus 40l settling zone 2 hours) was built and tested for continuous N removal from coking water and the precipitated struvite was dissolved – recirculated six times (seven uses). Results showed initial TAN removal from the coking water of nearly 90%, falling only slightly to around 85% by the 6th recycle. Removal efficiency of 90% could be maintained by adding phosphate.

“Ammonia nitrogen removal from coking wastewater and high quality gypsum recovery by struvite recycling by using calcium hydroxide as decomposer”, H. Huang et al. J. Environmental Management 292 (2021) 112712, DOI.

Nitrogen recycling

ESPP summary of nitrogen recovery perspectives in Fertilizer Focus

Leading fertiliser industry magazine publishes ESPP summary of work on N-recovery. ESPP notes that the few N-recycling installations operational today produce (dilute) aqueous ammonia salt solutions. These can be valorised regionally to farmers, but are not compatible with transport and reprocessing in the fertiliser industry (except in specific local circumstances). ESPP suggests to investigate feasibility of processes to recover ammonia as a compressed gas (e.g. via zeolites, geopolymers, ionic liquids), new routes to recover solid ammonium compounds and new processes to capture nitrogen from NOx stripping (in combustion, industry). ESPP is looking for companies to co-fund a joint “blue sky” industrial feasibility study of such new N-recovery routes.

Fertilizer Focus (Argus Media), July/August 2023, free online https://www.argusmedia.com/en/fertilizer/fertilizer-focus 

See also SCOPE Newsletter n° 145 (summary of ESPP’s first N-recovery workshop) and n° 147 (summary of N-recovery science publications). Summary of WARM (White Ammonia Research Meeting) is underway.

Sewage sludge biochars as fertilisers

ESPP – EBI workshop at the Biochar Summit Helsingborg

Process to reconsider the exclusion of sewage sludge from EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR) “pyrolysis and gasification products” could start in 2023. EBI will coordinate data input on contaminant safety and agronomic value.sewage

The Biochar Summit brought together several hundred industry and science participants. In this context, the ESPP-EBI joint workshop, with around fifty participants, welcomed European Commission and expert presentations on removal of organic contaminants in sewage sludge biochar processes, analysis methods and data availability and water industry interest for development of pyrolysis as a route for sewage sludge nutrient and carbon valorisation.

Christian Wieth, Aquagreen (Chair of EBI working group on sewage sludge carbonisation), opened the workshop, explaining the shared objective to collate evidence showing the contaminant safety, nutrient value to crops and carbon sequestration contribution of sewage sludge biochar, to support future acceptance of sewage sludge as an input to CE-Mark fertilisers (EU FPR CMC14, from which it is currently excluded).

Ana-Lucia Crisan, European Commission (DG GROW – Fertilisers), confirmed that at present sewage sludge is excluded as an input for European Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR) CMC14 “Pyrolysis and gasification materials”, but that sewage sludge biochars can be used in agriculture in some Member States under national fertilisers regulations and/or under waste valorisation plans. CMC14 was adopted in 2021, as part of the “STRUBIAS” criteria, in parallel to the EU FPR. It is now integrated into the consolidated version of the FPR published here. These criteria were based on the JRC STRUBIAS report 2019, which concluded (page 136 onds.) that there was not sufficient evidence to prove the safety of organic contaminants in sewage sludge biochars, that is evidence of their elimination in the pyrolysis/gasification process. This report stated: “the current proposal to exclude sewage sludge from the eligible input material list for CMC pyrolysis & gasification materials could possibly be revised once robust and extensive techno-scientific evidence underpins the safe use of (specific) pyrolysis & gasification materials derived from sewage sludge”. The current CMC14 criteria specify minimum processing conditions defined for input materials with low levels of contaminants (180°C for at least 2 seconds) and more demanding conditions would need to be specified where sewage sludge would be an input. Following the stakeholder consultation organised by DG GROW last year, sewage sludge as an input for CMC14 is included in the materials to be assessed for the European Commission (tender closed July 2023 HERE). This is expected to be a two-year study starting before end 2023. Stakeholders will be invited to input information on the safety, agronomic effectiveness, legal status, production and processing and potential for significant trade of sewage sludge pyrolysis / gasification materials. In particular, information on safety of organic contaminants in these materials should be more recent than, or otherwise not considered in, the 2019 JRC STRUBIAS report (see refence list of this report). If this study concludes that evidence now shows safety, agronomic value and trade potential as fertilising products of sewage sludge pyrolysis and gasification materials, with appropriate processing criteria, then CMC14 could be modified by Commission Delegated Act, after the relevant consultation procedures (maybe around one year additional time).

Christian Wieth, AquaGreen, noted that sewage sludge biochars are today used in agriculture under national fertilisers regulations in Sweden and under waste regulations in Denmark. They provide nutrients, improve soil water holding capacity and fix carbon. Sewage sludge biochar data from Pyreg, NGE and AquaGreen show that sewage sludge biochar typically meets the PFC contaminant criteria of the EU FPR, except possibly for zinc. Scientific literature indicates that dioxins, pharmaceuticals and pathogens are eliminated by pyrolysis at 500°C for 3 minutes, but there is not sufficient data concerning PFAS at 500°C. This could be addressed by requiring PFAS analysis and then exempting from further testing if no PFAS is found after three months. Furthermore, both Pyreg and AquaGreen have shown that PFAS is not detectable in the flue gas from their pyrolysis systems.

Helmut Gerber, Pyreg, summarised US EPA data showing that pharmaceuticals, PAH and dioxins are not found in sewage sludge biochars with pyrolysis at 500°C or higher, and PFAS is not found from around 600°C. A challenge however is that higher pyrolysis temperatures result in lower plant availability of the phosphorus in the biochar. Pyreg’s sewage sludge biochar (pyrolysis @ 600°C) showed crop growth of around 90% compared to mineral phosphate fertiliser in field trials in Hessen, Germany (biochar from sewage works using iron/aluminium for P-removal, see SCOPE Newsletter n°144). The NAC solubility of the phosphorus in this biochar (78,7%) was very slightly below the 80% threshold specified for declaring phosphorus as a nutrient under the EU Fertilising Products Regulation (Annex III – PFC 1, 4b).

Gerard Cornelissen and Katinka Krahn, Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, summarised extensive laboratory studies into organic contaminants in biochars. Test methods generally used do not extract, or underestimate, organic contaminants in biochars because they are strongly bound into the biochar. This also means that the organic contaminants are not bioavailable in soil. Pyrolysis at c. >500°C generally ensures >99.9% removal of PCBs, PAHs, dioxins (load in input feed material / load in biochar). For dioxins, over 70% is usually eliminated, with the remainder mostly transferred to pyrolysis oils and very little to flue gases. However, in some cases, in particular at high temperatures (c. >800°C), dioxin toxicity may be increased by changes in congeners or modification to furans.

David Gustavsson, VA SYD and Sweden Water Research, presented the Swedish REVAQ sewage sludge quality certification scheme, which jointly engages the water industry, farmers, supermarkets, consumer associations and the Sweden EPA. A key benefit of REVAQ is that it has pushed reduction of contaminant inputs to sewage, from industry or household toxic chemicals. Around 50% of Sweden’s sewage sludge is today REVAQ certified and is valorised in agriculture. However, there are concerns about organic contaminants and the water industry is looking at pyrolysis as a route to remove organic contaminants and reduce cadmium. Pyrolysis can be operated in smaller units than sewage sludge incineration, so reducing sludge transport and enabling flexibility, and offers benefits as a carbon sink with a potentially positive energy balance. VA SYD will soon be operating an AquaGreen pilot sewage sludge biochar plant (see SCOPE Newsletter n°144) to test pyrolysis of sewage sludges from different sewage works and to carry out field trials of sewage sludge biochars, in particular to assess phosphorus crop availability.

Richard Lancaster, Atkins Global Bioresources Director, emphasised that sewage sludge management is not a choice but a necessity, with significant growth in production worldwide as populations grow, standards of living increase and environmental standards tighten. If poorly managed, sewage sludge can cause pollution, odours, increase emissions and have significant carbon impacts, whilst missing opportunities to valorise resource value, for example nutrients.  The water industry faces challenges to biosolids valorisation in agriculture, due to growing concerns with regard to micropollutant contamination, for example organic contaminants and microplastics. The water industry wants to keep open a range of possible sewage sludge management routes / pathways which enable adaptation to future policy and environments, resource recovery and advanced thermal conversion, using technologies such as pyrolysis, whereas incineration for example closes other options. To enable alternative strategies there is a need to enhance understanding of deployment, explore output markets, refine regulations and gain a greater understanding on operating models / experience to support investment choices. Upstream reduction of contaminants at source is, however, the first priority.

Robert van Spingelen, ESPP President, closed the workshop, concluding that it is now necessary to collect data on elimination of organic contaminants (in particular PFAS, pharmaceuticals, microplastics) in sewage sludge pyrolysis and gasification processes, on analysis methods, and on levels of these contaminants in the resulting biochars, as well as data on phosphorus crop availability in sewage sludge biochars and on other agronomic benefits, including long-term carbon storage in soil. He underlined that the biochar industry also needs to propose consensus processing conditions and other criteria for possible inclusion of sewage sludge pyrolysis and gasification materials into CMC14 of the EU Fertilising Products Regulation. The European Biochar Industry Consortium indicated that they will centralise this data collection and make proposals.

ESPP – EBI workshop at the Biochar Summit, 14th June 2023 www.biochar-summit.eu 

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ESPP is looking for a regulatory consultant to prepare dossier on Cat1 ABP ashes

The European Commission (DG SANTE) has indicated that it will request from EFSA (European Food Safety Agency) an Opinion on the safety of possible use of Cat1 ashes and derivates in fertilisers. EFSA are susceptible to consider that the Brown et al. studies (2000, 2004, see ESPP eNews n°73) suggest possible prion infectivity after combustion, even in the absence of residual organic carbon or protein. ESPP organised an online meeting of companies and experts on Cat1 ash safety (22nd May 2023), including two co-authors of these studies. This meeting concluded that there are today no practical methods to reliably test ash samples to show absence of prion infectivity and no experimental evidence of elimination of infectivity by combustion under EU Industrial Emission Directive conditions. The meeting therefore proposed to develop a dossier of evidence to input to EFSA based on input material risk and on epidemiological data. ESPP is looking for a service provider to collect data and prepare a dossier to submit to EFSA, and also to support coordination with concerned companies and organisations.

See relevant background documents at www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory

Full details of services requested HERE. To express interest, please contact ESPP before 15th September 2023.

3rd Summit of Organic and organo-mineral Fertiliser Industries in Europe

16-17 January 2024, Brussels Plaza & hybrid

SOFIE is the only industry meeting place for organic-carbon-based fertiliser producers, distributors, advisory, technology suppliers. The first SOFIE (2019) attracted 125 participants, with 230 for SOFIE2.

SOFIE3 will cover:

  • policy and market
  • agronomic benefits, in particular field trials and case studies
  • processing from divers input materials to consistent products for farmers
  • application best practices, e.g. co-application with mineral fertilisers, biostimulants
  • environment, carbon benefits, LCA, Circular Economy
  • business models and product success stories

Short proposals for presentations, company showcases or posters should be sent by 15th October to : see details here. 
All presentations, showcases and posters to be in Brussels (not online). 

www.phosphorusplatform.eu/SOFIE2024

SOFIE3 is co-organised by ESPPEurofema and Fertilizers Europe, with support of the International Fertiliser Society

ESPP is coordinating a joint declaration, for signature by concerned companies and other organisations, calling for Elemental Phosphorus (P4 and derivates) and Purified Phosphoric Acid (PPA) to be included in the “Strategic Raw Materials” List.

The Declaration explains that phosphorus is necessary for the “Strategic” industry sectors defined in the draft Critical Raw Materials Act (batteries, renewable energies, electronics and data, aerospace) because it is needed for battery electrolytes and cathodes, photovoltaic panels, fuel cells, semiconductors, hydraulic fluids and for fire safety in all of these sectors. The objective is to input to the discussion of the draft Act in the European Parliament and Council.

If you wish to include your company or organisation signature, please contact ESPP.

Joint Declaration calling for phosphorus to be included in the EU Strategic Raw Materials List www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory and here.

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

Please subscribe www.phosphorusplatform.eu/Subscribe
Link to www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNews076
Download as PDF

ESPP new members
PYREG
NOAH AS

Consultations, calls & tenders
EU public consultation on Critical Raw Materials to 30th June
EU Polluter Pays Policy consultation to 4th Aug. 2023
EU tender on new input materials and biostimulant micro-organisms for FPR
EU tender for study on Animal By-Products (ABPs) in fertilising products

Nutrient Platforms
Italian Phosphorus Platform restarts its activities

Critical and Strategic Raw Materials
Joint Declaration supporting phosphorus to be a Strategic Raw Material
EuChemS webinar discusses why phosphorus (P) is essential to humanity

EU knowledge report on nutrient management
JRC study to support INMAP

UK water industry collaborative research reports
Contaminants and biosolids
Review of sewage sludge biochar processes

Research and development
1st White Ammonia Research Meeting (WARM, Brussels & hybrid, 7th June 2023)
Energy and phosphorus recovery from fish farm discharge
27-year field trial of organic wastes as fertilisers
Cerium for P-removal and hypothetical recovery
Iron-loaded plastic fibre lab tested for P removal – recovery by adsorption
Pharmaceuticals and heavy metals release from sewage sludge biochar

Stay informed

ESPP members

 

ESPP new members

 

PYREG

pyreg news 76PYREG is the global lead manufacturer of pyrolysis installations, with over 50 biochar plants operating worldwide, stabilising carbon into biochar and producing renewable energy. PYREG was set up in 2009 as a spin-off from TH Bingen, University of Applied Sciences. Today, PYREG’s installed biochar plants stabilise over 30 000 t/y of CO2 from biomass or from wastes such as sewage sludge, food waste and biomass residues, binding the carbon long-term into biochar. The CO2 bound into biochar can be certified and traded. The biochar can be used in technical applications or applied to soil. When phosphorus-containing substrates are pyrolysed (e.g. sewage sludge, food waste, food industry by-products), the phosphorus is retained in the biochar and can be returned to soil as a slowly plant-available nutrient. Six PYREG pyrolysis plants are today operating with dried sewage sludge as input, treating 1 300 – 3 900 t/y, and several others with various dry biomass residues as input, treating up to 3.300 t/y. The sewage sludge biochar contains 15 - 35% organic carbon, 6 - 7% P, around 1% N and more than 10% K (all as % of dry solids). PYREG sewage sludge biochar is registered as a fertiliser in Sweden (PYREGphos). By becoming a member of ESPP, PYREG will communicate with regulators, research, potential customers and companies offering technologies with potential synergies, and will promote pyrolysis as a route to fixing carbon in sewage sludge and to recycling phosphorus to agriculture.

https://www.pyreg.de/

 

NOAH AS

noha as news 76A waste management and recycling company, in minerals, stone and contaminated soils, as well as hazardous wastes and batteries, NOAH’s aims are circularity and a non-toxic material cycle, including nutrient recovery from fly ash. NOAH, part of Gjelsten Holdning group, has today around 135 staff and 25 years proven expertise in safe chemical-technical treatment solutions to manage wastes safely for people and the environment. Examples are zinc, mercury, arsenic, lead, hydroxides, and reactive metals. At Langøya (photo), NOAH processes the wastes into a gypsum matrix that binds and stabilises pollutants, treating around 500 kt/y of hazardous waste and relandscaping an old lime quarry. NOAH is developing recovery of mineral salts using a purification system to remove remaining impurities (sulphates, heavy metals, other metals) then a concentration process where sodium and potassium chlorides precipitate from the calcium chloride rich mother brine. Sodium and potassium salts are separated, crystallised and dried. NOAH is also testing phosphorus recycling from calcium phosphate slag, using the nitro phosphate process to produce pure gypsum and phosphoric acid. NOAH believes policies should move away from landfilling to circularity. EU regulations need to be optimised to make the transition to the Circular Economy. NOAH is joining ESPP to work together for these transitions

https://en.noah.no

 

Consultations, calls & tenders

 

EU public consultation on Critical Raw Materials to 30th June

Consultation extended to 30h June 2023 on draft EU Critical Raw Materials Regulation, before discussion in EU Parliament and Council, covering Critical and Strategic Raw Materials Lists, with update of the EU Critical Raw Materials List. Elemental phosphorus (P4) and phosphate rock are NOT included in the proposed list of “Strategic” Raw Materials (see ESPP eNews n°74).

ESPP has input to provide reasons why Elemental Phosphorus (P4 and derivates) and Purified Phosphoric Acid (PPA) should both be included in the “Strategic Raw Materials” List.

ESPP also suggests that materials critical for EU food security should be assessed and defined Strategic.

ESPP’s input to the public consultation is on the EU website here and the full document submitted is at www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory (see under “EU Critical Raw Materials”)

Individuals, companies and organisations can input to the EU public consultation until 30th June here (4000 characters free text plus optional document).

 

EU Polluter Pays Policy consultation to 4th Aug. 2023

Consultation asks questions about Polluter Pays Policy implementation. At the same time, the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive recast proposes PPP for costs of removing pharmaceuticals and cosmetics in sewage works. The public consultation on PPP open to 4th August asks about pollutant costs, which pollutants should be targeted, how PPP should be implemented including how the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP) should be integrated into prices of products and what impacts this could have. This consultation is open to input from the general public, companies and organisations. At the same time, the recast of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, currently in discussion in European Parliament and Council, raises the question of PPP. The Commission’s proposed text would introduce PPP (here called “Extended Producer Responsibility”) for costs of removing pharmaceutical and cosmetics residues in sewage works (Recital 13, arts. 9, 10, 30 and Annex 3) and will evaluate for 2030 whether this should be enlarged to other chemicals found in wastewater.

Legislative dossier underway Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive recast https://oeil.secure.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/ficheprocedure.do?reference=2022/0345(COD)&l=en

“Polluter Pays Principle – fitness check of its application to the environment”, EU public consultation open to 4th August 2023 HERE

 

EU tender on new input materials and biostimulant micro-organisms for FPR

The European Commission has opened a tender for studies on microorganisms for inclusion as biostimulants and on possible other new materials as inputs for the EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR). The tender includes two lots. The first will develop methodology for assessing microorganism which are candidates for inclusion in EU FPR “biostimulants” (addition into CMC7), including their safety, agronomic effectiveness, legal status, production and processing, potential for significant trade, etc. The study will then use the methodology to assess a number of microorganisms proposed under the EU survey held in 2022 (see ESPP eNews n°69). The second study lot will assess candidate new input materials and treatments for possible inclusion into CMCs of the EU FPR, starting by screening submissions made under this 2022 survey. “Indicative examples” cited include materials from: human excreta; algae grown on waste waters; nutrients from battery recycling; from feed industry; sewage sludge; sludge from fish farming; seafood processing residues; and additional processing methods or input materials for a number of CMCs. This study will then assess potential for significant trade, environmental and health safety, agronomic efficiency, and will then make technical proposals for FPR Annex II amendments for materials identified as relevant. Estimated total tender value is 275 K€ (125 K€ for microorganisms, 150 K€ for new CMC materials).

DG GROW tender (TED), open to 17th July @ 9h00 GROW/2022/OP/0046 “Technical Studies to Support the Inclusion of New Materials and Microorganisms under the Fertilising Products Regulation” HERE

 

EU tender for study on Animal By-Products (ABPs) in fertilising products

The European Commission has pre-announced an upcoming tender for a study on agronomic value and environmental safety of certain Animal By-Products in fertilising products (CMC10). As indicated in ESPP eNews n°75, the authorisation of certain ABPs in CE-mark fertilising products (under the EU Fertilising Products Regulation FPR – CMC10) is very, very slowly progressing. It is our understanding that the DG SANTE Delegated Act amending the Animal By-Product Regulations to define “end points” allowing use of certain ABPs in EU fertilising products (that is, without traceability) is now finalised and will hopefully be published in the Official Journal within a few months (link below). However, these ABPs can only be added to the EU FPR (CMC10) after assessment by the European Commission (DG GROW) of their agronomic value and environmental safety. For “processed manure”, this will be done by the Commission itself (JRC), see ESPP’s input HERE. For ABPs other than “processed manure” cited in the SG SANTE Delegated Act, and possibly for other ABPs which could be considered for future integration into the FPR, the study of agronomic value and environmental safety will be contracted, and for this DG GROW has published a tender pre-announcement.

DG GROW CMC10 ABP agronomic and environmental safety study pre-announcement 5/6/2023: HERE

DG SANTE Delegated Act for “end points” for certain ABPs for use in fertilisers: HERE

 

 

Nutrient Platforms

Italian Phosphorus Platform restarts its activities

A new two-year collaboration agreement has been signed between the Italian Ministry of the Environment and Energy Security (MASE) and ENEA for the resumption of the activities of the “Italian Phosphorus Platform”. A webinar on the 15th March launched this second ENEA contract which covers two years. The meeting was opened by Carlo Zaghi (MASE), who emphasised the challenges and opportunities of circularity. Maria Grazia Verdura (MASE Technical Secretariat) introduced the Italian National Table on Critical Raw Material, which aims to enhance national coordination and generate proposals to establish regulatory, economic, and market conditions that promote a secure and sustainable supply of critical raw materials, including phosphorus. Claudia Brunori (ENEA) introduced the Italian Phosphorus Platform objectives of closing the loop in the phosphorus cycle to achieve long-term Italian self-sufficiency in phosphorus supply. Representatives from ENEA presented results achieved by the four thematic groups during the first two-year Platform programme (2018-2019, six published reports, in Italian, here) and planned activities for the 2023-2024 period. Alessandro Spagni (ENEA) presented the reports prepared in 2019 on phosphorus recovery technologies. At that time, only one full-scale P-recovery plant was operating in Italy (Colsen struvite recovery in Emilia-Romagna), but there was significant research interest and company pilot tests. The report emphasised that Italian phosphorus fluxes are primarily linked to agriculture and that there is a strong focus on recovery from liquid and solid organic fractions from wastewater treatment. The future activities include updating the “technology catalogue” (13 technology summaries) and assessing potential replicability of international technologies in Italy. Over 30 people, primarily from industries and sector associations, participated in the report on legislation (coordinated by Sergio Cappucci, ENEA), which analysed more than 90 legislations related to phosphorus at the European, Italian and regional levels. This report will now be updated. Francesca Ceruti (ENEA) presented a comparative study of other Member States' policies related to phosphorus and a market analysis on the phosphorus cycle in terms of supply and demand. The main critical issues in the sector, hindering the closure of the phosphorus cycle and market development, were identified as the lack of specific regulation on end-of-waste and recovery, as well as a lack of public awareness. The two reports will also be updated over the next two years, and a feasibility study will be conducted to establish a national database on phosphorus. This database will track the main users and sellers of phosphorus on the basis of stakeholder inputs, including those who recover it from secondary sources.

The first meeting of the four thematic groups took place online on May 30th 2023, 9h-16h, with around 2 hours per thematic group. To participate in future meetings contact:

Italian Phosphorus Platform website: https://www.piattaformaitalianafosforo.it/en

 

Critical and Strategic Raw Materials

 

Joint Declaration supporting phosphorus to be a Strategic Raw Material

ESPP is coordinating a joint declaration, for signature by concerned companies and other organisations, calling for Elemental Phosphorus (P4 and derivates) and Purified Phosphoric Acid (PPA) to be included in the “Strategic Raw Materials” List. The Declaration explains that phosphorus is necessary for the “Strategic” industry sectors defined in the draft Critical Raw Materials Act (batteries, renewable energies, electronics and data, aerospace) because it is needed for battery electrolytes and cathodes, photovoltaic panels, fuel cells, semiconductors, hydraulic fluids and for fire safety in all of these sectors. The objective is to input to the discussion of the draft Act in the European Parliament and Council. If you wish to include your company or organisation signature, please contact ESPP.

You can input to the EU public consultation to 30th June here

ESPP’s input to the public consultation here

Joint Declaration calling for phosphorus to be included in the EU Strategic Raw Materials List www.phosphorusplatform.eu/regulatory

 

EuChemS webinar discusses why phosphorus (P) is essential to humanity

Nearly 200 participants at the EuChemS webinar organised from the European Parliament, discussing phosphorus uses, stewardship and recycling, and concluding that the element P should be identified as critical.

The webinar was opened by Maria Spyraki, Member of the European Parliament, and Christos Vasilakos, Senior Policy Advisor to Ms. Spyraki, who highlighted the essential role of the European Chemical Society and underlined that phosphorus is essential for both biological life and the human body, and for industry, but that build ups in water and soils are problematic. P-recycling is necessary both to reduce losses and for the Circular Economy.

Evamarie Hey-Hawkins, Leipzig University and Floris Rutjes, Radboud University and EuChemsS President, underlined that P is essential for food production. Mineral nitrogen fertilisers ensure food for around half the world’s population. For phosphorus, ESPP estimates that mineral P fertilisers currently feed 4/5 of the world’s population, but this is an estimate, and better data from science would be welcome.

Nicola Armaroli, CNR Italy (National Research Council) explained that EuChemS has developed a Periodic Table based on the abundance of elements on Earth and identifying by colours which elements are critical for humanity and subject to resource scarcity or conflicts (latest version here): P is currently indicated as yellow (limited availability, future risk to supply). Participants at the webinar suggested that P should also be indicated as deep red (problems due to losses and over-use) and that specific forms of P should be included in the EU “Strategic” Raw Materials list, currently open to public consultation and to debate in the European Parliament and Council (see under public consultations, above).

Alessandra Quadrelli, CNRS France (National Research Council) outlined work on Planetary Boundaries and discussed challenges of resource sustainability, indicating that P use and losses show exceedance by a factor of more than 4x and that this prejudices food security. Dana Cordell, University of Technology Sydney, underlined the nature of phosphorus vulnerability, including geopolitical risks, short-term supply-chain disruptions that led to last year’s 400% phosphate price spike, in addition to P losses, and that only around 20% of mined P applied to crops ends up consumed in food, as P is bound to soil and lost to water, causing eutrophication. She spoke of overcoming market barriers to scaling up circular phosphorus value chains and the need to improve P governance so that all farmers worldwide have access to sufficient phosphorus to ensure soil fertility and food security whilst avoiding eutrophication. Chris Slootweg, University of Amsterdam, underlined the need for systems thinking to develop phosphorus circularity and address losses and eutrophication. Jan Weigand, Dresden Technical University, summarised work underway to find routes to organophosphorus chemicals needed by industry without using the chlorinated vector chemical PCl3.

Andreas Rak, Remondis, presented the company’s TetraPhos process to recover phosphoric acid (brand name: REPACID) from sewage sludge incineration ash. A first full scale installation (20 000 t ash / year) is currently underway starting operation in Hamburg. The plant is owned and operated by HPHOR (Hamburger Phosphorrecyclinggesellschaft mbH), a public private partnership between REMONDIS and HAMBURG WASSER.

Chris Lawson, CRU, summarised trends in P use. Today around 200 million tonnes/year of phosphate rock is mined, of which around 95% is sedimentary and nearly 5% igneous. Prices spiked following Russia’s attack on Ukraine, but have since come down and are currently around twice their 2000 level, with considerable differences between different grades of rock. Only around 2/3 of world mine capacity is currently utilised, so that there is little incentive to invest to increase production. Morocco and Saudi Arabia have significantly increased rock extraction over recent years. World trade in phosphate rock fell from 2000 to 2015 (more or less stable since) as mining countries tend to move to process rock to phosphoric acid, fertilisers or other products, trading these not rock. This means that the world’s biggest exporter of phosphate rock is today Jordan. Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) batteries are expected to develop considerably in coming years, in particular for grid energy storage, and may require 9-10 million tonne/year of phosphate rock by 2035, but this remains small compared to total world phosphate rock production.

Robert van Spingelen, ESPP President, explained why two specific forms of P, elemental phosphorus (P4) and Purified Phosphoric Acid (PPA) are both essential for the “Strategic” industry sectors targeted by the proposed EU Critical Raw Materials Act (batteries, renewable energies, electronics and data, aerospace). ESPP therefore considers that these two materials should be added to the EU “Strategic Raw Materials” list. The EU public consultation is open to 30th June (see above). ESPP also suggests that food security is “Strategic” for Europe and that raw materials essential for food security should be assessed for a second “Strategic” list.

EuChemS Science-Policy Phosphorus Workshop “The role of chemicals in our daily life: the phosphorus element, feeding the world and beyond”, online from the European Parliament, 25th May 2023 here.

EuChems periodic table “The 90 natural elements that make up everything. How much is there? Is that enough? Is it sustainable?”, 3rd version 2023 https://www.euchems.eu/euchems-periodic-table/

 

 

EU knowledge report on nutrient management

 

JRC study to support INMAP

The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre has published a study to support the upcoming Integrated Nutrient Management Action Plan (INMAP) and Biodiversity Strategy and Farm-to-Fork target of reducing nutrient losses by 50% by 2030.

ESPP comment: this is a knowledge review and does not make regulatory/political proposals: these should be in the European Commission’s INMAP proposal which is forthcoming. The report does however assess whether current policies can be expected to achieve this 2030 target.

The study reviews available literature and data to assess nutrient flows, divergences from environmental targets and measures to reduce nutrient losses, including spatial maps and summaries by EU country. The current relevant regulatory context applicable to waste management is summarised.

Annual input of P in the EU is estimated at 1 MtP/y and reactive nitrogen 8 MtN/y to air and 5 MtN/y to water. Planetary boundaries for the EU are estimated at c. 0.4 MtP/y and 4.4 MtN/y, so in both cases considerably lower than 50% of current inputs. Around 40% of P and 50% of N entering agricultural production is estimated to end up in waste.

Nutrient recycling is addressed in particular as a route to reduce losses, including assessing nutrient recycling potential, possible contribution to reducing nutrient losses, costs and economic benefits. A range of nutrient recycling routes and technologies are discussed in detail (pages (pages 49-62). Four nutrient recycling routes are considered in detail: mineral P and N fertilisers recovered from digestates by precipitation and scrubbing, P-recovery from ashes, mineral N recovery from offgases (from stables, manure storage, composting), use of digestate or compost in organic fertilisers (organic carbon containing fertilisers). The report notes that nitrogen recovery from combustion flue gases is not today operation, and that flue gas treatment often uses catalysis with ammonia or urea injection to convert N2O/NOx to N2, so effectively consuming reactive nitrogen not recovering. JRC estimates that a maximum of 0.3 MtP/y and 1 MtN/y could be recovered to mineral fertilisers from waste or losses plus 0.3 MtP/y and 0.7 MtN/y by using wastes in organic fertilising products.

ESPP comment: these JRC estimates do not necessarily mean replacing fertilisers, as the waste may currently be reused as an organic fertilising material, e.g. manure slurry / digestate or sewage biosolids. For P, this JRC compares to 0.3 – 0.4 MtP/y estimated without including manure by Van Dijk et al. 2015, see SCOPE Newsletter n°117).

JRC suggests (p. 128-129) that recovery of nutrients to concentrated nutrient products could substitute a maximum of 25% and 10% of EU P and N mineral fertiliser consumption. This is estimated to have a cost of c. 6 billion €/y (additional cost compared to virgin mineral fertilisers) compared to environmental benefits to society of > 7 bn€/y.

Impacts of possible measures are analysed for atmospheric nitrogen losses and nutrient deposition to land, balanced mineral N fertilisation, reduction measures on P and N losses to freshwater and the sea and for different scenarios for the EU agro-food system. Actions currently announced or planned for wastewater treatment (revision underway), under CAP or for atmospheric nitrogen emissions (e.g climate actions FitFor55) are estimated to reduce nutrient losses (reaching the sea) by around 17% for P and 32% for N. ESPP comment: this is significantly less than the Biodiversity Strategy and Farm-to-Fork 50% reduction target. The report suggests that achieving food and feed self-sufficiency in Europe within nutrient environmental constraints will require structural changes to agri-food production and to dietary patterns. Regional variations could enable specific opportunities for nutrient loss reduction.

The report concludes that the results are preliminary and not exhaustive with uncertainties in modelling and data.

ESPP recommends to consult the full report, in particular key findings and conclusions (pages 124-131).

European Commission JRC, Grizzetti et al., “Knowledge for Integrated Nutrient Management Action Plan (INMAP)”, 184 pages, 200 references, ISBN 978-92-68-02654-0 DOI.

 

 

 

UK water industry collaborative research reports

 

Contaminants and biosolids

UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) has published a number of reports into practical investigation of removal of contaminants in wastewater treatment and levels in treated sewage sludge (biosolids), including microplastics and antimicrobial resistance. See also summary of UKWIR report on sewage sludge biochar below and summaries of UKWIR phosphorus removal technology trials in ESPP SCOPE Newsletter n°129.

The UK National Chemicals water industry’s Investigation Programme (CIP) is the UK water industry’s response to current and emerging concerns about trace chemical substances in the water environment. It brings together the 10 water and wastewater companies in England and Wales, with their environmental regulators, to investigate a range of chemical substances often present in domestic products that find their way into wastewater and biosolids and ultimately rivers and streams.

One of the investigations analysed 173 chemical contaminants in biosolids from eleven UK sewage sludge treatment centres (waste water treatment plants (wwtps) treating their own and other sewage sludge), finding 128 of these chemicals (above detection limits in at least half of samples) at one or more works, with wide variations both within and between centres (“Biosolids Products Data Report”). Some chemicals showed consistent patterns in sludge across the different centres, whereas others varied widely. Chemicals tested include pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, flame retardants (halogenated, non-halogenated), AMPA (metabolite of particularly glyphosate), PCBs, cosmetics, detergent chemicals, heavy metals, PFAS chemicals, as well as ions such as calcium, chloride, phosphorus, iron …

This data feeds into the “Biosolids Report” which aims to assess how wastewater and sludge treatment processes influence the fate of these contaminants in biosolids. This report concludes that the data enables to identify which chemicals are likely to be introduced into the environment by use of sewage biosolids in agriculture, but does not enable risk assessment. The studies did not analyse directly how levels of chemicals were impacted by wastewater treatment and sludge processes but it is concluded that fate of PFAS (removal, partitioning) is particularly uncertain and that some pharmaceuticals may be broken down in wastewater treatment but further data is needed. Most of the organic contaminants considered are removed from effluent discharge in wastewater treatment works by sorption to sewage sludge, not by breakdown (table 3.6, pages 45-46).

Microplastics were specifically studied at ten wwtps operating different treatment systems (trickling filters, activated sludge, fixed film activated sludge, biobead biological aerated fixed film). Microplastic removal (from discharge water) was very high (>99% by mass and by number of microparticles). Mostly acrylate, polyethylene and polypropylene polymers found, with no significant fibre forms. Microplastics are transferred to sewage sludge, not broken down, resulting in around one million microplastic particles per kg sewage biosolids (dry weight), so a total over 8 000 t/y of microplastics going to land in the UK. (although potential weaknesses in the mass prediction method mean that these values should only be seen as a starting point and not definitive). Managing the microplastic load to wwtps would therefore seem to be a suitable candidate for source control.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) was also specifically studied concluding that wastewater treatment eliminates over 97% of ARG (antibacterial resistance genes). The treatment can however select for certain ARGs, this being related to metal concentrations not antibiotic pharmaceutical concentrations. Also, ammonia levels correlated to AMR in final effluent, suggesting that treatment conditions not favouring nitrification were related to lower ARG removal. No clear conclusions could be drawn concerning which wastewater treatments were more effective in reducing AMR, but anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge did reduce AMR. It is noted that further investigation is needed into AMR in sewage sludge and its fate in soils after land application of biosolids.

UKWIR National Chemical Investigations Programme 2020-2022:

“Biosolids Products Data Report”, vol. 6, ref. No. 22/EQ/01/27 (60 pages)

“Biosolids Report”, vol. 12, ref. No. 22/EQ/01/2339 (33 pages)

“Fate and behaviour of microplastics within wastewater treatment”, vol. 2, ref. No. 22/EQ/01/23 (117 pages)

“Changes to antimicrobial resistance through wastewater and sludge treatment processes”, vol. 1, ref. No. 22/EQ/01/22 (182 pages)

UKWIR research reports online https://ukwir.org/water-industry-research-reports

 

Review of sewage sludge biochar processes

UKWIR analysis suggests that pyrolysis can offer benefits for sewage sludge valorisation but raises questions on technology demonstration, fertiliser properties of sewage sludge biochars, regulatory and market aspects. The feasibility and options review of pyrolysis, gasification and HTC (hydro thermal carbonisation) is based on a literature search, contacts with technology suppliers (Green Waste Energy, Pyreg, Aqualia, Kobelco, Amey), technology scenarios and analysis by water industry operators. The report underlines that no one technology fits all, and that conclusions and implementation scenarios must be adapted to each water company’s context. Potential benefits of sewage sludge pyrolysis are identified as reduction of quantities (reducing transport), energy recovery (heat, biofuels), potential reduced carbon footprint and long-term carbon sequestration, reduction in emerging contaminants, elimination of pathogens. Uncertainties identified concern the wide range of technologies and different implementation scenarios, resulting in limited references relevant to sewage sludge and lack of data concerning energy consumption, sludge drying, operating challenges, robustness, cost; lack of evidence on long-term stability of carbon and of pollutants in sewage sludge biochars; legal uncertainties regarding output products and questions on whether carbon accounting will credit sequestration in biochar. The report recommends installing a demonstration plant in a UK sewage works as a water industry collaborative trial, undertaking long-term trials on the agronomic benefits and impacts of sewage sludge biochar applied to land, testing of uses of sewage sludge biochars for example as adsorbents in sewage works as well as further research into energy balances, carbon benefits, integration into sewage sludge processing (e.g. solid-liquid separation) and costs.

UKWIR 2023 “Converting sewage sludge to biochar – a review of options & feasibility”, ref. No. 23/SL/07/2 (254 pages).

UKWIR research reports online https://ukwir.org/water-industry-research-reports

 

Research and development

 

1st White Ammonia Research Meeting (WARM, Brussels & hybrid, 7th June 2023)

This first workshop on nitrogen recovery research attracted 70 participants in Brussels and 50 online. A wide range of routes for reusing N in organic waste streams were presented. A SCOPE Newsletter summary will be published soon. Different N recovery routes discussed included using waste streams to feed biomass production (algae, duckweed, microbial protein), N-recovery from separately collected urine, manure N stabilisation or local processing to organic fertilisers, recovery of ammonium sulphate solution, or production of ammonia gas for industry use (e.g. by adsorption from waste liquors or offgas followed by desorption as ammonia gas). Discussion suggested that ammonia sulphate solution is mainly adapted for local distribution to farmers (not economic to transport, even if concentrated, unless in specific use chains). Industry participants suggested that further R&D is needed on possible new technologies (adsorption/desorption by ionic liquids, geopolymers, recovery logistics for ammonia gas, recovery from NOx/N2O stripping) whereas researchers proposed more modelling studies.

https://www.phosphorusplatform.eu/nrecovery

 

Energy and phosphorus recovery from fish farm discharge

PwC says that the 1 Mt/y of sludge from Norway fish farms which will be produced by 2050 could provide energy for 600 000 households and over 33 000 t/y of phosphorus. A full scale pilot is planned in Norway. Currently the sludge of fish excrements and food remnants goes into fjords and the sea, with discharge today of some 16 000 t/y of phosphorus to the sea, expected to triple as aquaculture increases by 2050. A full scale solution developed by Framo LiftUP, AquaProp and Ragn-Sells Havbruk is underway at Eide Fjordbruk Hardangerfjorden, and will collect some 18 000 t/year wet weight of sludge and dead fish instead of their sinking to the seabed (= c. 1 800 t/year dry weight, containing 3 - 3.5 % phosphorus). The sludge is taken to anaerobic digestion, where energy is recovered as methane. Phosphorus can then be recycled as a fertilising material in the processed digestate and studies are underway into nitrogen recovery in the digestate processing. A report by PwC for Vestland County Norway and the business network ARAL estimates that implementation of this technology can recover around 70% of sludge from fish farms, so reducing environmental footprint and enabling increased production (+600 t fish/y for an average size fish farm), offering the potential to produce 350 – 950 billion m3/y of biogas and recycle 33 500 t/y of phosphorus by 2050.

“Norwegian fish poo can power 600,000 households and supply entire countries with phosphorus”, Ragn-Sells 27/2/2023 LINK

“Circular solution for sludge recycling in Norwegian fish farming”, Ragn-Sells 31/8/2022 HERE.

 

27-year field trial of organic wastes as fertilisers

Long-term trial with sewage sludge and manures confirms the need to balance nutrients to crop needs not simply to nitrogen application rates. The 27-year trial at Cervený Újezd, Czech Republic, with maize each year, compared control (no added nutrients), mineral N-fertiliser (with or without also straw), sewage sludge and two manures, all at 120 kgN/ha/year. This resulted in c. 80 kgP/ha/y of phosphorus with sewage sludge (from a sewage works using iron and aluminium salts for chemical P removal) and 23-32 kgP/ha/y with manures. Above-ground maize biomass production was highest with N-fertiliser and wheat, followed by the two manures, then sewage sludge and N-fertiliser alone (these last two being around one third higher than control). Soil P decreased slightly in the control over the 17 years and decreased significantly with N-fertiliser (c. -10%) but increased nearly +50% with sewage sludge and c. +25% with the manures. Water soluble P was however 20-30% lower with sewage sludge than with manures, suggesting a lower risk of phosphorus losses despite higher soil P (presumably due to iron and aluminium).

“Side effect of organic fertilizing on the phosphorus transformation and balance over 27 years of maize monoculture”, D. Asrade et al., Field Crops Research 295 (2023) 108902, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fcr.2023.108902

 

Cerium for P-removal and hypothetical recovery

Cerium oxides are widely used in glass polishing. Lab study recovered cerium chloride from glass polishing slurry, tested for phosphate precipitation from brewery wastewater, then cerium recovery. The brewery wastewater had 630 mg/l suspended solids, 20 mgP/l, 46 mgN-total/l, and significant levels of other ions including sulphur, calcium, potassium, magnesium. Cerium chloride crystals were recovered from the glass grinding slurry (which contained 82% CeO2) by leaching with HCl and H2O2. This cerium solution was added as 0.05 mol/l to the wastewater in beakers to precipitate phosphorus (stirring 10-20 minutes with pH adjustment, settling for 5 minutes, tested Ce:P ratio of 1 to 2). Total P removal was >99% and suspended solids removal of >96%. Cerium recovery from the precipitated sludge was tested by leaching cerium with 15% hydrochloric acid, then precipitating with sodium hydroxide. Over 70% cerium recovery was achieved. The authors suggest that the remaining leached precipitation sludge enable phosphorus recovery but this was not demonstrated. This leached sludge contained nearly 25% P but also >12% cerium which could be an obstacle to use in fertilising products (cerium is both mildly toxic and also a plant micronutrient), and if the process was used on municipal wastewater the sludge would likely contain other heavy metals and contaminants.

“Removal of phosphate from brewery wastewater by cerium(III) chloride originating from spent polishing agent: Recovery and optimization studies”, P. Lejwoda et al., Science of the Total Environment 875 (2023) 162643 DOI.

 

Iron-loaded plastic fibre lab tested for P removal – recovery by adsorption

Plastic fibres loaded with iron were tested at lab-scale for phosphorus removal from synthetic solutions and for P-recovery by desorption with fibre reuse for P-removal. 99% P-removal was achieved. 5 reuse cycles were tested. Polypropylene fibres were aminated then loaded with iron by 3-step reaction with acrylamide, ammonium iron sulphate, benzoyl peroxide, toluene and iron chloride. An iron loading of 13.5% was identified as optimal. The iron-loaded fibres (PPFFe) were tested for P-removal from synthetic solutions of potassium sulphate, with also chloride, nitrate, carbonate and sulphate ions. The PPFFe fibres removed over 99% of soluble phosphate in continuous flow conditions, with good ion selectivity, reducing phosphate from 2 mgP/l to <0.2 mgP/l. P adsorption capacity of the PPFFe fibres was 3%P. The P-loaded PPFFe fibres were regenerated using 0.1 mol/l EDTA (chelating agent) showing 99% desorption over five PPFFe reuse cycles. The authors note that waste polypropylene fibres could be used. ESPP notes that testing in real wastewater, with other competing ions and suspended solids / organic carbon is needed, as is demonstration of how to recover a useable phosphorus material from the EDTA regeneration solution, to enable application for phosphorus recycling.

“Fabrication of recyclable Fe3+ chelated aminated polypropylene fiber for efficient clean-up of phosphate wastewater”, S. Zhao et al., Front. Chem. Sci. Eng. (2023) DOI.

 

Pharmaceuticals and heavy metals release from sewage sludge biochar

Pyrolysis of sewage sludge can reduce the content of pharmaceuticals and heavy metals in the resulting biochar and their availability to plants, depending on pyrolysis temperature and duration. Sludge from the municipal sewage treatment plant in Binhai District, Tianjin, China, was hydrothermally treated (2 litre reactor) at 180 and 240°C for 6 and 15 h. The sludge contained c. 50 µg/kg caffeine and c. 100 µg/kg acetaminophen (a pharmaceutical). The resulting sludge biochars were characterised in terms of elemental composition, surface properties, PPCPs and heavy metals (Cr, Pb, Cu and Zn), and added to a hydroponic solution at doses of zero to 0.8 g/l to test their toxicity for wheat growth. For all of the contaminants tested (caffeine, acetaminophen and the heavy metals) concentrations in the sludge biochars were of similar magnitude to those in the sewage sludge (from c. 4x lower to c. 2x higher), with no general relation to the two tested temperatures or times. Lower doses of the biochars in the hydroponic solution had benefits for wheat growth or health, but higher doses showed toxicity and damage to plants. Caffeine, acetaminophen and heavy metals from the biochars were taken up and accumulated in the wheat, but with levels in wheat shoots below China drug and food additive standard limits.

“PPCPs and heavy metals from hydrothermal sewage sludge‑derived biochar: migration in wheat and physiological response”, K. Zhen et al., Environmental Science and Pollution Research 29, 83234–83246 (2022), DOI

 

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

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White Ammonia – Nitrogen Recovery
1st White Ammonia Research Meeting (WARM) - 7th June 2023

EU public consultations
EU draft update of Slaughterhouse BAT BREF
EU public consultation on “Taxonomy”: green investment funding
EU public consultation on fertiliser digital labelling
EU public consultation on Critical Raw Materials

EU input needed – recycled fertiliser products
Input on processing of manure products
Comments on proposed analysis standards for STRUBIAS materials
Animal By-Products (ABPs) in EU Fertilising Products Regulation delayed again

Policy
European Commission document on Food Security
European Parliament position on fertilisers
Updated EU Regulation on agricultural statistics (SAIO)
European Environment Agency report on soil monitoring

Nutrient recovery inauguration
Inauguration of Ragn-Sells - EasyMining first Ash2Salt plant 5

Research and development
Ammonia losses to air from livestock and combustion
Black soldier fly for wastewater resource recycling
Overview of agricultural P loss challenges
Benefits of Legacy Phosphorus

Stay informed

ESPP members

 

 

White Ammonia – Nitrogen Recovery

 

1st White Ammonia Research Meeting (WARM) - 7th June 2023

ESPP is organising a first White Ammonia and N-recovery Research Meeting (WARM) in Brussels and hybrid, Wed. 7th June 2023 (plus nitrogen recovery site visit 6th June). This will showcase research and innovation into nitrogen recovery and make links from EU R&D policy to industry implementation. Confirmed presentations to date include: European Commission DG Research and DG Environment, Fertilizers Europe, Severn Trent and ACEA.

This is within EU Green Week, Brussels, and back-to-back to the 6th Power to Ammonia Conference by NH3 Event, Europe’s biggest ammonia event, Rotterdam 8-9 June 2023 (one hour train from Brussels).

Proposals for presentations or posters are welcome:

Registration is now open: http://www.phosphorusplatform.eu/events

 

 

EU public consultations

 

EU draft update of Slaughterhouse BAT BREF

Draft update of EU BAT BREF for Slaughterhouse & Animal By-Product and Co-Product Industries is published. Public comments are invited. IED (Industrial Emissions Directive) Forum members (includes ESPP) are invited to input comments by 11th May latest, so please send any comments to ESPP by 8th May. The 540 document is a proposed update of the existing 2005 BAT BREF. Techniques presented as BAT (Best Available Technology) include: phosphorus recovery as struvite for resource recovery ($2.3.2.7 page 96) and wastewater treatment ($2.3.6.5.3 page 157) and in BAT12 and BAT14 (for wastewaters with Ptotal > 50 mg/l, $5.1.6 and $5.1.7 pages 450-451); P-removal from wastewater by chemical precipitation or enhanced biological P-removal (EBPR); dicalcium phosphate manufacture from gelatine production ($4.5.2.2 page 427); anaerobic digestion with use of digestates as N, P, K containing fertiliser ($2.1.2 page 31). It is indicated page 378 that wastewater treatment sludge can be sent to incineration then P-recovery. Total phosphorus and total nitrogen emissions to water are KEIs (Key Environmental Indicators, p.25). Use of sludge from gelatine production, feathermeal, PAP processed animal proteins or blood byproducts directly on farmland as a fertilising material are cited (pages 354, 369, 374, 433). Ammonia N-recovery from rendering condensate is cited ($4.3.4.2.2 page 397). BAT14 specifies limits (for direct discharge) of 4 – 30 mg/l for Ntotal and 0.25 – 2 mg/l for Ptotal – ESPP suggests that these limits seem non-ambitious compared to limits widely applicable to municipal wastewater treatment plants. ESPP will input comments to propose to add to BAT1 (Overall Environmental Performance) a nutrient valorisation plan, conform to the waste hierarchy (food, feed, fertiliser). ESPP will also comment that anaerobic digestion should ensure Animal By-Product Regulation 142/2011 End-Point heat/time conditions, to ensure sanitisation, and to enable use of digestates as fertiliser.

Draft “Best Available Techniques (BAT) Reference Document for the Slaughterhouses, Animal By-products and/or Edible Co-products Industries”, proposed update of existing 2005 BREF http://eippcb.jrc.ec.europa.eu/reference/ Comments to ESPP by 8th may.

 

EU public consultation on “Taxonomy”: green investment funding

Consultation open to 3rd May 2023 for EU Taxonomy Regulation, defining technologies eligible for green investment funding (and possibly by extension other support or policy tools): includes P-recycling from municipal wastewater (Annex II = contribution to the circular economy, § 2.1). The draft Delegated Regulation will be adopted by the European Commission after the public consultation period and internal concertation, and does not go to the European Parliament and Council. The proposed Regulation and Annexes are based on the initial reports published by the European Commission in 2021 and 2022, see ESPP eNews n°s 59 and 66. Some of ESPP’s comments on the first draft are taken into account (clarifications regarding recovery routes, inclusion of end-uses other than in fertilisers, requirement of end-product to have a use …). The criteria require that at least 15% of incoming phosphorus is recovered for processes at the waste water treatment plant, and at least 80% for processes treating sewage sludge ashes.

ESPP continues to regret that recovery of nitrogen or of other nutrients is not included, that the wording is likely to exclude some processes for processing P in sewage sludge to organic fertilisers (e.g. biochars), and that the criteria cover only phosphorus recycling from “waste water treatment plants” not from e.g. manure*.

The proposed Regulation also includes, amongst many other sectors, with specified conditions:

  • treatment of separately collected bio-waste through anaerobic digestion or composting with the resulting production and utilisation of biogas, digestate, compost or chemicals (Annex II – 2.5);
  • urban waste water treatment systems (Annex I – 2.2);
  • mechanical material recovery form non-hazardous waste (Annex II – 2.7). This does not cover chemical recovery of e.g. potassium from waste-to-energy combustion ashes, however the preamble (14) states that recovery of “metals and inorganic salts from … ashes from non-hazardous waste incineration” should be considered for inclusion in the next update of the Taxonomy criteria.

Unlike the initial Commission report, the proposed Regulation does not cover agriculture.

* The draft text refers to “recovery of phosphorus from on-site waste water treatment plants (WWTP) (aqueous phase and sludge) and from materials (i.e. ashes) after thermal oxidation (i.e. incineration) of sewage sludge”. It is unclear what this means. On the one hand, the text later refers to “sewage sludge”, but on the other hand it cites NACE codes “in particular” E37.00 = sewerage, E38.32 = does not exist (maybe should read E38.3.2 - Recovery of sorted materials ?) and F42.99 = does not exist (maybe should read F42.9.9 - Construction of other civil engineering projects n.e.c.).

“Sustainable investment – EU environmental taxonomy”, EU public consultation to 3rd May 2023 and draft Delegated Regulation establishing further Technical Screening Criteria for the EU ‘Taxonomy’ Regulation 2020/852  HERE.

See also: European Commission taxonomy and sustainable finance web page HERE and EU Taxonomy Navigator online tool HERE.

 

EU public consultation on fertiliser digital labelling

Consultation open to 29th May 2023 on draft amendments to the EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR) to enable digital labelling of EU fertilising products before discussion in EU Parliament and Council. The proposed amending Regulation modifies both articles of the FPR itself and of its annexes. Modifications enable obligatory labelling information to be provided by digital means and specify functioning of this, and also modify definitions of packaging and labelling requirements, in some cases, for labelling soluble content of nutrients, organic carbon, dry matter, micronutrients, pH and stability ranges …

Proposal for a regulation COM(2023)98. Consultation open to 29th May HERE.

 

EU public consultation on Critical Raw Materials

Consultation extended to 19th June 2023 on draft EU Critical Raw Materials Regulation, before discussion in EU Parliament and Council, covering Critical and Strategic Raw Materials Lists, with update of the EU Critical Raw Materials List, including phosphate rock and P4 – details in ESPP eNews n°74 and Consultation here (4000 characters free text plus optional document).

 

EU input needed – recycled fertiliser products

 

Input on processing of manure products

The European Commission (DG GROW) is preparing criteria for use of hygienised manure materials in EU fertilisers, and looks for input to define what “post processing” methods to include in CMC10. The DG SANTE delegated act authorising the use of certain hygienised manure materials in EU fertilisers (defining an ABP End-Point “processed manure” as defined in the Animal By-Products Regulations) is now nearly finalised and may be published in coming months. The European Commission (DG GROW) will then prepare a modification to the EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR) to specify the inclusion of such “processed manure” in EU-fertilisers (in CMC10), see below. “Processed manure” here means manure which has been hygienised using the “standard methods” defined in the Animal By-Products (ABP) Regulation 142/2011, Annex XI, Chapter I, Section 2 (a), (b), (d) and (e). However, under the EU FPR, a CMC material can only be used in, or as, a fertilising product if there is no further treatment or processing. It is therefore important that the future CMC10 criteria for hygienised manure materials (ABP “processed manure”) specify the treatments which can be carried out (after the ABP hygienisation) for its use in fertilisers. Such treatments could include drying, granulation, solid-liquid separation, stabilisation, pH adjustment, possibly with additives to be specified necessary for such processes. Please send to ESPP specifications of treatments you suggest are relevant for hygienised manure (ABP “processed manure”) and which you suggest should be included in CMC10.

Input by email by 10th May to ESPP

 

Comments on proposed analysis standards for STRUBIAS materials

The European Commission has circulated for comment a proposed mandate to CEN to develop some 30 new analysis standards for CMCs 11 – 15, that is by-products, STRUBIAS and recovered mineral materials, including precipitated phosphates, ash-based materials, pyrolysis/gasification materials. Proposed standards include methods for determination, in these materials where relevant for EU Fertilising Products Regulation criteria, of levels of phosphate, iron, other elements, organic carbon, H / Corg, macroscopic impurities, PAH16, PCDD/F, pathogens and of hygienisation conditions (temperature, time).

Commission draft standards mandate here (for new proposed standards for STRUBIAS, by-products, recovered minerals) see Annex II, page 29 onwards). Comments by 10th May to ESPP

 

Animal By-Products (ABPs) in EU Fertilising Products Regulation delayed again

The European Commission informed the Fertilisers Expert Group, 18th April, that inclusion of “processed manure” into the EU Fertilising Products Regulation is delayed to at least end 2023 and other ABPs to at least end 2024. This is because environmental safety assessments are legally required. This concerns the Animal By-Products covered by the draft DG SANTE delegated act defining “End Points” for use in EU fertilisers (see ESPP eNews n°70). The Commission confirmed that manure (and other specified Cat. 2 and 3 ABPs) will however be authorised as input materials to EU fertilising product composts, digestates, precipitated phosphates, ash-based materials and pyrolysis materials (CMCs 3, 5, 12, 13, 14) as soon as the DG SANTE delegated act enters into force. It is ESPP’s understanding that this will mean that for these CMCs will be able to include manure / specified ABPs either (i) if these have been hygienised (by ABP ‘standard methods’: Regulation 142/2011) BEFORE entering the composting / digestion / combustion / pyrolysis process or (ii) raw manure / specified ABPs is input into the composting / digestion / combustion / pyrolysis process and this process itself respects the ABP “standard methods” obligations. ESPP will ask that this be clarified in the EU FPR Frequently Asked Questions document after the DG SANTE delegated act is published.

Policy

 

European Commission document on Food Security

EU communication on Food Security reminds that the EU is largely food self-sufficient but that food inflation is nearly 20%/year. Fertilisers supply and price accentuates other pressures reducing agricultural productivity: climate change, loss of pollinators, labour shortages … 61% of agricultural land is arable (and more than half of this is to produce animal feed), and 31% of agricultural land is grassland. Ecosystem contribution to crop yield values is estimated to be 21%, with the remainder resulting from human inputs (planting, labour, chemicals). Agriculture is the main source of nitrogen discharge to waters and contributes to eutrophication, and contributes over 10% of EU greenhouse emissions (over 2/3 of this related to livestock). The 100 page Communication discusses a wide range of drivers of food security including climate, pollution, soil health, pests and diseases, biodiversity, research and technology, production intensity, trade, speculation, energy prices, fertilisers, workers, economics and finances, land use, supply chain, food loss and waste and demography. Mineral fertilisers are considered to “play a significant role for food security”, but (nitrogen) fertiliser prices are directly connected to energy prices and the EU is largely dependent on fertiliser imports. The EU is estimated to be around 30% dependent on imports for N fertilisers, 68% for P and 85% for K. High energy prices risk increasing these dependencies. Increased fertiliser prices lead farmers to apply less, resulting in lower yields and impacting food availability and access. Nutrient management plans, soil conservation, precision agriculture, crop rotation with legumes and nutrient recycling are cited as mitigating pressure from high fertiliser prices. For the fertiliser industry, a “green transition” is considered critical, using green hydrogen, digestate and compost, with improved nutrient use efficiency and so lower nutrient losses to the environment.

“Drivers of Food Security”, European Commission SWD(2023)4, 4th January 2023 https://commission.europa.eu/publications/analysis-main-drivers-food-security_en

 

European Parliament position on fertilisers

Parliament resolution supports development of organic and recycled fertilisers, underlines negative impacts of fertiliser prices on farmers, supports livestock farming and calls to increase the EU farm budget (CAP). The position notes that phosphorus and nitrogen exceed planetary boundaries in the EU, but also calls for increased regional flexibility to exempt from Nitrates Directive nitrogen application limits and for the “presence of livestock on most territories” for “a more uniform availability of organic fertilisers”. Parliament calls to amend the Nitrates Directive and to enable “temporary derogations” for RENURE materials and digestates. Parliament notes that many secondary nutrient sources are not optimally used, calls for Member States’ CAP Strategic Plans to stimulate development of organic fertilisers and for actions, including investments and business plans, to support and improve market access for organic and recycled fertilisers, as well as crop rotation with plants which fix nitrogen, nutrient use efficiency and precision farming. Parliament calls for implementation and upscaling of the Farm Sustainability Tool for Nutrients (FaST) to develop nutrient balances for farms.

Availability of fertilisers in the EU”, European Parliament resolution 16th February 2023, “P9_TA(2023)0059 https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2023-0059_EN.html

 

Updated EU Regulation on agricultural statistics (SAIO)

New Regulation requires reporting of all fertilising products (as defined by the EU Fertilising Products Regulation), and of both nutrients used in fertilisers and nutrient balances. Member States will be required to report average fertiliser purchase prices for different fertiliser products, nutrients in fertilising products and nutrient balances, at either the national or regional NUTS2 level (to be defined by the European Commission), and covering 95% of the Member State agricultural area. Data on nine different parameters relevant to calculating national nutrient balances will be required: inorganic fertilisers, organic fertilisers (excluding animal manure), crop and forage nutrient contents, crop residues and nutrient coefficients, biological N fixation coefficients, atmospheric N deposition coefficients, seed nutrient content coefficients, livestock manure volumes and nutrient content coefficients.

(Amending) Regulation (EU) 2022/2379 on “statistics on agricultural input and output”, 23 November 2022, HERE.

 

European Environment Agency report on soil monitoring

EEA 200 page report proposes soil health indicators including parameters for phosphorus and nitrogen to ensure that low levels do not compromise productivity but also to limit nutrient losses. Chapter 3 on soil nutrient loss (phosphorus and nitrogen) underlines and explains the concept of “critical” phosphorus levels for crop yield, below which yields will be reduced, and above which additional phosphorus input makes little difference, but which may be different from the critical level for phosphorus losses, above which losses increase rapidly with higher inputs. The following soil health indicators and monitoring parameters are proposed for phosphorus and nitrogen (in combination with parameters including organic carbon, pH, contaminants, soil compression …):

  • Falling below of optimal phosphorus
  • P limitation based on exceedance of N:P ratio
  • Exceedance of critical levels of mineral nitrogen
  • N limitation based on exceedance of C:N ratio
  • Total (organic) nitrogen
  • C:N ratio
  • Total N
  • Mineral N
  • Total P
  • Available P: Pox/Al+Feox
  • Available K

Threshold levels are proposed for contaminants, but not for nutrients.

“Soil monitoring in Europe — Indicators and thresholds for soil health assessments”, European Environment Agency EEA Report No 08/2022 https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/soil-monitoring-in-europe and DOI

 

Nutrient recovery inauguration

Inauguration of Ragn-Sells - EasyMining first Ash2Salt plant

The first commercial facility recovering potassium, calcium and sodium salts from municipal waste incineration fly ash was inaugurated in Högbytorp, Sweden by the Swedish Minister of Climate and Environment, Romina Pourmokhtari, alongside Erik Sellberg, Chairman of Ragn-Sells Board. The Minister emphasised Sweden’s commitment to achieving Net Zero Emissions by 2045, that transitioning to a circular economy is crucial to achieving this goal, and underlined the role of active companies prioritising sustainable development. Pär Larshans (Director of Sustainability at Ragn-Sells) then led a panel discussion with Anette Blücher from EON/Nordic, Emma Nohrén from the Swedish Parliament, Ellen Einebrant from The Recycling Industries, and Mattias Peterson Ersoy from Upplands-Bro Municipality. The panel stressed the importance of industrial symbiosis in achieving the environmental targets, and the need to shift away from the current paradigm of waste plants towards that of resource plants.

Fly ash is a waste product generated during the cleaning of flue gases in municipal waste incineration plants. Due to its high content of salts (200 kg per ton of ash) and heavy metals, it is classified as hazardous waste. In Sweden alone, 300 000 tons of fly ash are produced annually. The Ash2Salt process allows the recovery of the salts (potassium, calcium, and sodium chloride) present in fly ash (Fig. 1,2). The inaugurated plant, which cost 70 million €, can treat up to 150 000 tons of fly ash per year, producing roughly 10 000-12 000 tons of NaCl (solid), 6 000 tons of KCl (solid), and 25 000 tons of CaCl2 (saturated solution (36%) per year. The fly ash is received from 15 Swedish incineration and waste-to-energy plants, and is loaded into silos on the plant roof from ten 180 m3 silos on the side of the plant (Fig. 3), as shown by Mattias Lindblad, Head of Production at the Ash2Salt plant. The ash is then dropped to vessels and mixed with water using propeller agitators, to dissolve the salts. After this, the ash is passed onto a belt (Fig. 4), allowing the water containing the salts and heavy metals to percolate through, leaving a "washed ash" or "cleaned ash" that can be deposited at a landfill for non-hazardous waste. Some research is underway to find alternative uses for the washed ash, while the cleaning water coming out of the filter, containing the salts and heavy metals, is treated to remove heavy metals (through precipitation and separation). Additionally, organics are removed through a carbon filter. An evaporator is used to increase the concentration of salts in the cleaning water, which can process 20 m3 of water per hour (Fig. 5). Once the solution becomes saturated in CaCl2, NaCl and KCl begin to crystallize and are separated based on their different properties. This process leaves behind a 36% CaCl2 solution, while ammonia released during the evaporation process is scrubbed out to (NH4)2SO4. The recovered salts can be used for various purposes, including fertilisers (KCl, (NH4)2SO4), dust control and deicing (CaCl2), or other industrial processes (NaCl, KCl).

The inauguration event was preceded by a visit to EasyMining's R&D facilities in Uppsala. During the visit, Jan Svärd (CEO) and Yariv Cohen (Head of Research and Development) presented EasyMining’s Ash2Phos and Aqua2N technologies (see eNews 62 and 74, respectively), and Michael Pohl (Head of Research and Development, Omya) presented new approaches for Zero Liquid Discharge, including the Brine2Mineral project collaboration, which aims to remove Mg and Ca from brine effluent in the Ash2Phos process.

news75 image

 

Research and development

 

Ammonia losses to air from livestock and combustion

Isotopic analysis distinguishes ammonia air emissions from agriculture from combustion emissions, suggesting that around half are in Europe are from farming (fertilisers, animal wastes) and around half from combustion. The authors distinguish “v” ammonia emissions to air (volatilisation from fertilisers, fertilised and natural soils, animal wastes, water) from “c” emissions (combustion of fossil fuels or biomass). The authors compared the data for different N-isotopes in the ambient atmosphere (a), atmospheric particulates (p) and precipitation (w) for East Asia, Europe and North America. Comparison of ratios enables estimation of volatilised ammonia “v” (assumed by the authors to be mainly related to agriculture) and combustion ammonia “c”. They conclude that around 51%, 54% and 60% of ammonia losses to air are from volatilisation “v” in Europe, North America and East Asia respectively, but with margins of error of +/- 20%. They thus conclude that ammonia emissions are generally significantly underestimated.

“Significant contributions of combustion related sources to ammonia emissions”, Z-L. Chen et al., Nature Communications (2022) 13:7710, DOI.

 

Black soldier fly for wastewater resource recycling

Innovative process (patented) enables cultivation of black soldier fly (BSF) larvae in liquid, so coupling treatment of high organic carbon wastewaters and valorisation of nutrients and carbon. BSF are already commercially cultivated on solid organic wastes, to produce proteins, lipids, aquaculture feed and organic fertilisers (see Protix at SOFIE2). The fly larvae cannot normally survive in a liquid medium. The patented process overcome this by providing an inert physical support for larvae mobility: diving for eating and re-emerging for breathing. The process has been successfully tested to date at lab scale (0.15 l, 180 cm2 surface area) using synthetic wastewaters and real wastewaters, including food processing wastewaters, landfill leachate. This suggests that the larvae need at a minimum organic carbon level in the feed wastewater to ensure sufficient food. Results (not yet published) suggest that the larvae system can remove c. 80% of nitrogen and 50% of phosphorus from waste water with initial levels c. 150 mgN/ and 16 mgP/l. After depletion of carbon and nutrients in the wastewater by the fly larvae, treatment can be completed with conventional technologies, while larvae are separated and recovered.

“The treatment of leachate using Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae: Adaptability and resource recovery testing”, V. Grossule et al.,  2020, J. Environ. Manage. 253, 109707, DOI.

“Treatment of wastewater using black soldier fly larvae , under different degrees of biodegradability and oxidation of organic content”, V. Grossule et al., 2022, J. Environ. Manage. 319, 115734, DOI.

“Treatment of wastewater using Black Soldier Fly larvae: Effect of organic concentration and load”, V. Grossule et al., 2023, J. Environ. Manage. 338, 117775, DOI.

 

Overview of agricultural P loss challenges

8-page layperson’s summary update article explains farm P-losses are today key to surface water quality problems (eutrophication), discusses challenges of soil Legacy-P and possible solutions. Agricultural phosphorus losses are today the main cause of major eutrophication problems in the US/Canada Great Lakes, the Mexico Gulf Dead Zone and in many other lakes in North America, because wastewater treatment plant discharges have been now mostly addressed. At the same time, uptake of applied phosphorus in the first crop season is <20% global average and P-losses linked to soil erosion are a major route for phosphorus resource depletion (Alewell et al., 2020). The challenge is that P applied tends to bind in soils, so is not readily crop available, whereas many crops need P rapidly (e.g. half of maize’s P requirement is after flowering). But when P is applied up to levels such that it is readily available, then it tends to be lost in surface runoff or drainage with rainfall. On the other hand, P applied in the past and bound in soil (Legacy-P) slowly becomes available, so can contribute to today’s P-losses. Illinois, an intensive agriculture State, has a negative P balance over recent decades, but P losses continue as soil Legacy-P shows a “lag time”. Solutions discussed include not only appropriate P application (fertiliser, manure …), but also improving soil P testing and linked P application recommendations, phosphorus trap using specific underground filter structures, streambank buffer vegetation, cover crops, biostimulants to improve crop P uptake and fertilisers which release P according to plant needs (e.g. struvite).

“Blue Waters, Green Fields. Going Beyond BMPs and 4Rs to Control Future Phosphorus Loss to the Environment”, S. Windsor, Crops & Soils Magazine (American Soc. Agronomy) Jan-Feb 2023 DOI.

 

Benefits of Legacy Phosphorus

Incubation and pot trials demonstrate how P accumulated in soil, by long-term P fertilisation, improves effectiveness of further P-fertiliser application for crops, and underlines need to consider buffering capacity in soil P testing. Soil with different levels of “Legacy-P” was simulated by incubating low-P soil, with high buffering capacity, from West Bengal, India, at 70°C for 30 days in soluble P solutions 0 – 5000 mgP/kg soil. This is estimated to be equivalent to five years at 20°C. A second incubation in 0 – 1000 mgP/kg soil showed no further modification of P levels in the simulated Legacy-P soils, indicating that P had stably reacted with the soil. The five legacy P soils showed increases of Olsen-P up to nearly 2000 mg/kg (then divided b 1/5 in the pots, see below). Pot trials using the simulated Legacy-P soil (20% mixed with 80% non-incubated soil = without Legacy-P) and mustard (Brassica campestris) showed that plant growth responded much more to fertiliser addition (c. 0 – 200 mgP/kg soil), that is the maximum fertiliser dose was needed to achieve maximum plant growth in the soils without Legacy-P, whereas the lowest fertiliser does (50 mgP/pot) was sufficient in the pot with the highest Legacy-P. The authors conclude that Legacy-P is shown to be beneficial in improving crop response to fertiliser, effectively be preventing/reducing fixing of fertiliser P onto soil buffering sites. They underline that their results show that soil tests such as Olsen-P tend to underestimate the effectiveness of P-fertiliser application, because they involve increasing soil pH, and that P-fertilisation can be better planned if the soil P test is combined with measurement of soil buffering capacity (e.g. method Burkitt et al. 2022 or other).

“Evaluating the benefits of legacy phosphate”, N. Barrow et al., Plant Soil (2022) 480:561–570, DOI.

 

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ESPP members

ESPP member logos 08.03.23 page 0001

Draft update of EU BAT BREF for Slaughterhouse & Animal By-Product and Co-Product Industries is published. Public comments are invited. IED (Industrial Emissions Directive) Forum members (includes ESPP) are invited to input comments by 11th May latest, so please send any comments to ESPP by 1st May. The 540 document is a proposed update of the existing 2005 BAT BREF. Techniques presented as BAT (Best Available Technology) include: phosphorus recovery as struvite for resource recovery ($2.3.2.7 page 96) and wastewater treatment ($2.3.6.5.3 page 157) and in BAT12 and BAT14 (for wastewaters with Ptotal > 50 mg/l, $5.1.6 and $5.1.7 pages 450-451); P-removal from wastewater by chemical precipitation or enhanced biological P-removal (EBPR); dicalcium phosphate manufacture from gelatine production ($4.5.2.2 page 427); anaerobic digestion with use of digestates as N, P, K containing fertiliser ($2.1.2 page 31). It is indicated page 378 that wastewater treatment sludge can be sent to incineration then P-recovery. Total phosphorus and total nitrogen emissions to water are KEIs (Key Environmental Indicators, p.25). Use of sludge from gelatine production, feathermeal, PAP processed animal proteins or blood byproducts directly on farmland as a fertilising material are cited (pages 354, 369, 374, 433). Ammonia N-recovery from rendering condensate is cited ($4.3.4.2.2 page 397). BAT14 specifies limits (for direct discharge) of 4 – 30 mg/l for Ntotal and 0.25 – 2 mg/l for Ptotal – ESPP suggests that these limits seem non-ambitious compared to limits widely applicable to municipal wastewater treatment plants. ESPP will input comments to propose to add to BAT1 (Overall Environmental Performance) a nutrient valorisation plan, conform to the waste hierarchy (food, feed, fertiliser). ESPP will also comment that anaerobic digestion should ensure Animal By-Product Regulation 142/2011 End-Point heat/time conditions, to ensure sanitisation, and to enable use of digestates as fertiliser.

Draft “Best Available Techniques (BAT) Reference Document for the Slaughterhouses, Animal By-products and/or Edible Co-products Industries”, proposed update of existing 2005 BREF http://eippcb.jrc.ec.europa.eu/reference/ Comments to ESPP by 1st May.

Consultation open to 29th May 2023 on draft amendments to the EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR) to enable digital labelling of EU fertilising products. before discussion in EU Parliament and Council. The proposed amending Regulation modifies both articles of the FPR itself and of its annexes. Modifications enable and obligatory labelling information to be provide by digital means and specify functioning of this, and also modify definitions of packaging and labelling requirements, in some cases, for labelling soluble content of nutrients, organic carbon, dry matter, micronutrients, pH and stability ranges …

Proposal for a regulation COM(2023)98. Consultation open to 29th May HERE.

Consultation open to 3rd May 2023 for EU Taxonomy Regulation, defining technologies eligible for green investment funding (and possibly by extension other support or policy tools): includes P-recycling from municipal wastewater (Annex II = contribution to the circular economy, § 2.1). The draft Delegated Regulation will be adopted by the European Commission after the public consultation period and internal concertation, and does not go to the European Parliament and Council. The proposed Regulation and Annexes are based on the initial reports published by the European Commission in 2021 and 2022, see ESPP eNews n°s 59 and 66. Some of ESPP’s comments on the first draft are taken into account (clarifications regarding recovery routes, inclusion of end-uses other than in fertilisers, requirement of end-product to have a use …). The criteria require that at least 15% of incoming phosphorus is recovered for processes at the waste water treatment plant, and at least 80% for processes treating sewage sludge ashes.

ESPP continues to regret that recovery of nitrogen or of other nutrients is not included, that the wording is likely to exclude some processes for processing P in sewage sludge to organic fertilisers (e.g. biochars), and that the criteria cover only phosphorus recycling from “waste water treatment plants” not from e.g. manure*.

The proposed Regulation also includes, amongst many other sectors, with specified conditions:

  • treatment of separately collected bio-waste through anaerobic digestion or composting with the resulting production and utilisation of biogas, digestate, compost or chemicals (Annex II – 2.5);
  • urban waste water treatment systems (Annex I – 2.2);
  • mechanical material recovery form non-hazardous waste (Annex II – 2.7). This does not cover chemical recovery of e.g. potassium from waste-to-energy combustion ashes, however the preamble (14) states that recovery of “metals and inorganic salts from bottom ashes from non-hazardous waste incineration” should be considered for inclusion in the next update of the Taxonomy criteria.

Unlike the initial Commission report, the proposed Regulation does not cover agriculture.

* The draft text refers to “recovery of phosphorus from on-site waste water treatment plants (WWTP) (aqueous phase and sludge) and from materials (i.e. ashes) after thermal oxidation (i.e. incineration) of sewage sludge”. It is unclear what this means. On the one hand, the text later refers to “sewage sludge”, but on the other hand it cites NACE codes “in particular” E37.00 = sewerage, E38.32 = does not exist (maybe should read E38.3.2 - Recovery of sorted materials ?) and F42.99 = does not exist (maybe should read F42.9.9 - Construction of other civil engineering projects n.e.c.).

“Sustainable investment – EU environmental taxonomy”, EU public consultation to 3rd May 2023 and draft Delegated Regulation establishing further Technical Screening Criteria for the EU ‘Taxonomy’ Regulation 2020/852  HERE.

See also: European Commission taxonomy and sustainable finance web page HERE and EU Taxonomy Navigator online tool HERE.

The proposed CRM Act defines two levels of importance: “Strategic” and “Critical”. Strategic are related to electronics. New targets and tools are proposed for these, but not for “Critical”, so not for Phosphate Rock or P(meaning P4/derivatives).

The Strategic Raw Materials (SRMs) are defined as those needed for “strategic technologies underpinning the green and digital transitions or for defence or space applications” (16 materials, all metals or related elements), and are a subset of 34 Critical Raw Materials (CRMs), defined as “all strategic raw materials as well as any other raw materials of high importance for the overall Union economy and for which there is a high risk of supply disruption”. The proposed CRM Regulation sets out actions to be engaged, at either EU or Member State levels. As written, it seems that some of these actions apply to all CRMs, and some only to SRMs.

The Commission’s proposals for the SRM list are indicated to be based on the new JRC Foresight Report (2023). It is therefore very surprising that the essential role of P4 derivatives for electronics, batteries, renewable energy is not recognised and that “Phosphorus” is not included in the list of Strategic Raw Materials. White Phosphorus (P4, referred as “Phosphorus” in the EU CRM documents) is necessary for battery electrolytes, microchip etching, semiconductors, fire safety, all of which are essential for the “Strategic” sectors of green energy, digital and aerospace.

ESPP notes that food materials are excluded from the definition of CRMs but we regret that the proposed CRM Act does not recognise the important links between CRMs and food security. This could be achieved by indicating in the proposed CRM Act the links to the Commission Communication on Fertilisers price and supply.

The Act is a proposed EU Regulation, published 16th March 2023, which is now open to public consultation until 30th June 2023 then will go to the European Parliament and Council for discussion and possible amendment and modification before adoption.

ESPP draft input to public consultation and proposed amendments – for comment and input HERE

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

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Link to www.phosphorusplatform.eu/eNews074
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White Ammonia – Nitrogen Recovery
1st White Ammonia Research Meeting (WARM) - 7th June 2023
Call for nominations of nitrogen recovery science papers
ESPP moving forward on Nitrogen Recovery

Consultations, calls, surveys
EU public consultation on Critical Raw Materials
EFSA call for scientific experts
Open and upcoming Horizon Europe research funding calls related to nutrients
IFS survey on definition of “plant nutrient”
Looking for “best of” science publications on Nitrogen Recovery
Call for experts for EU Fertiliser Market Observatory

EU (Strategic and …) Critical Raw Materials Act (CRM)
Phosphate Rock and P4 stay on EU Critical Raw Materials List
JRC Foresight Report on materials for strategic technologies
SCRREEN2 Fact Sheet

Policy
United Nations adopts 50% nutrient loss reduction target
Sewage plants are currently incompatible with small river & stream water quality

Summary of 15th CRU Phosphates conference

ESPP new member
European Biochar Industry Consortium (EBI)

Research
IFS webinar debate on definition of “plant nutrient”
Vegan diets require lower N, P and K fertiliser inputs
Phosphorus Use Efficiency (PUE) is improving in China but is still low
Phosphorus uptake controls plant response to increased atmospheric CO2

Nutrient recycling
Lex4Bio survey on “Bio-Based Fertilisers”
EasyMining LIFE RE-Fertilize N-recovery webinar
Implementation of German sewage P-recovery obligation
Phosphorus in sewage sludge incineration ash (SSIA) is not short-term plant available
Phosphorus uptake from nine secondary materials and P extraction methods
Freeze concentration to concentrate digestate RO liquor

Stay informed

ESPP members

 

 

White Ammonia – Nitrogen Recovery

 

1st White Ammonia Research Meeting (WARM) - 7th June 2023

ESPP is organising a first White Ammonia and N-recovery Research Meeting (WARM) in Brussels and hybrid, Wed. 7th June 2023 (plus nitrogen recovery site visit 6th June). This will showcase research and innovation into nitrogen recovery and make links from EU R&D policy to industry implementation.

This is within EU Green Week, Brussels, and back-to-back to the 6th NH3 Event (& 6th Power to Ammonia conference), Europe’s biggest ammonia event, Rotterdam 8-9 June 2023 (one hour train from Brussels).

Details coming soon on http://www.phosphorusplatform.eu/events

 

Call for nominations of nitrogen recovery science papers

ESPP is preparing a SCOPE Newsletter special presenting the “best of” of recent scientific papers or reports on Nitrogen Recovery and Recycling. This will summarise a selection of around 25 scientific publications for the last few years, similar to SCOPE special editions on climate change – eutrophication links (n°137) or phosphorus sustainability (n°128).

Selection will target papers representing significant knowledge progress in N-recovery, both technical recovery (N recycling to industry or fertilisers) and biological or other N recycling routes, in particular: operating experience at full/pilot scale or innovative technologies leading to N-recovery in a form likely to be a marketable product.

Please send copies of or links to papers you suggest should be included, your own or other authors’, to .

 

ESPP moving forward on Nitrogen Recovery

ESPP is establishing a Start-Up Steering Committee to take forward actions on nitrogen recovery and recycling. First meeting online 29th March. Persons interested to engage are invited to contact This working committee will function by online and/or physical meetings and email.

ESPP has also completed the detailed summary of the 19th January Nitrogen Recovery Workshop, published as SCOPE Newsletter n°145 with summaries of presentation and discussions, and key facts on the different nitrogen recovery technology providers.

 

Consultations, calls, surveys

 

EU public consultation on Critical Raw Materials

Consultation open to 16th May 2023 for public input on draft EU Critical Raw Materials Act, covering Critical and Strategic Raw Materials Lists, including phosphate rock and P4 – details see article below. Consultation here.

 

 

EFSA call for scientific experts

EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) call for candidates for its scientific panels and committee, including BIOHAZ (Biological Hazards), the committee dealing with safety of animal by-products use in fertilisers and animal feeds. The call is open for scientists to 3 April 2023.

EFSA “Call for Expressions of Interest for Membership of the Scientific Panels and the Scientific Committee of EFSA 2023” HERE

 

 

Open and upcoming Horizon Europe research funding calls related to nutrients

Several open and upcoming Horizon Europe calls concern nutrients, in particular soon-to-open calls on N and P regional boundaries and recycled nutrient fertilising products (first deadline February 2024). In December 2022, the European Commission adopted the 2023-24 work programme of Horizon Europe – the EU’s funding for research and innovation.

At the moment, ten calls open are related to nutrients. One call, closing soon on 23rd March 2023, aims at developing EU advisory networks on the optimal fertiliser use, while other calls with a submission deadline on the 28th March 2023 are focused on benefits of leguminous crops and their contribute to reducing the EU’s dependency on imports of nitrogen fertilisers and protein crops for feed, sustainable and circular management and use of water resources, including nutrient recovery, and innovative solutions in agriculture for water availability and quality. Two stages calls belonging to the “Clean environment and zero pollution” topic, first stage closing on 28th March 2023, are open on manure use to mitigate GHG emissions and minimize nutrients/contaminants dispersion in the environment and bio-based platform chemicals, additives, materials or products. On the 12th April 2023, five calls indirectly related to nutrients will close, dealing with strategies to improve yields in organic cropping systems, activities for the European Partnership Water Security for the Planet (Water4All), sustainable production of renewable energy at farm-level and urban farming impacts.

Particularly relevant calls for nutrient research will open on 17th October 2023, with a (first) submission deadline 22nd February 2024 (both one- and two-stage calls):

ESPP is interested to support networking, dissemination and communication activities. Please contact Veronica Santoro for more information and possibilities (). See our ESPP list of running and finished EU and national funded nutrients research projects.

ESPP research activities and ESPP nutrient related R&D project list www.phosphorusplatform.eu/R&D

 

 

IFS survey on definition of “plant nutrient”

See article below. Survey open HERE.

 

 

Looking for “best of” science publications on Nitrogen Recovery

See above and HERE

 

 

Call for experts for EU Fertiliser Market Observatory

European Commission (DG Agriculture) call for experts to participate in EU Fertilisers Market Observatory as a group of experts on availability and affordability of fertilisers, following the Commission Communication on fertilisers supply and price (November 2022, see ESPP eNews n°72). Candidates should be representatives of organisations representing stakeholders of at least 10 EU Member States active in the fertilisers supply chain. The Observatory will have up to 20 members and will play a consultative role, providing the Commission with advice and expertise on factors impacting the fertilisers market and market developments.

“Commission calls for applications to join the upcoming EU Fertilisers Market Observatory”, 16th march 2023. Deadline: 4th April 2023 HERE

 

 

EU (Strategic and …) Critical Raw Materials Act (CRM)

 

Phosphate Rock and P4 stay on EU Critical Raw Materials List

But the proposed CRM Act defines two levels of importance: “Strategic” and “Critical”. Strategic are related to electronics. New targets and tools are proposed for these, but not for “Critical”, so not for Phosphate Rock or P4.

The Act is a proposed EU Regulation, published 16th March 2023, which is now open to public consultation until 16th May 2023 then will go to the European Parliament and Council for discussion and possible amendment and modification before adoption.

The “Strategic Raw Materials” are defined as those needed for (Preamble §4) “strategic technologies underpinning the green and digital transitions or for defence or space applications” and are listed in Annex I (16 materials, all metals or related elements). These are a subset of 34 Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) listed in Annex II and defined as (Preamble §5) “all strategic raw materials as well as any other raw materials of high importance for the overall Union economy and for which there is a high risk of supply disruption” and are listed in Annex II. Both lists will be reviewed every four years.

“Phosphate Rock” and “Phosphorus” (meaning P4/derivatives) are maintained in this proposed 5th CRM list, which now includes 34 materials, increased from 30 in the 4th CRM list (2020, see ESPP eNews n°48). Arsenic, helium, copper, nickel (battery grade) and feldspar* are added; natural rubber is deleted. However, they are not included in the subset of 16 Strategic Raw Materials (SRMs).

The proposed EU Critical Raw Materials Regulation and its annexes include “Phosphorus” and “Phosphate Rock” as CRMs, but provide no definition of these terms. Similarly for the previously published updates of the CRM List. A recent definition can be found in the SCCRREEN Factsheet (see below) as follows:

CRM “Phosphate Rock”

CRM “Phosphorus”

“In effect covering phosphorus P in different forms in fertilisers, animal feed, chemicals and other uses.”

“Referring to elemental phosphorus P4, often known as white phosphorus.”

ESPP comment: around 95% of global phosphate rock use is for agriculture, of which around 90% for fertilisers.
(see ESPP FactSheet).

ESPP comment. P4 is produced from phosphate rock in specific furnaces. P4 production is <2% of phosphate rock use. The EU today has no P4 furnace and depends entirely on imports. See SCOPE Newsletter n°136

The Commission’s proposals for the SRM (Strategic) list are indicated to be based on the new JRC Foresight Report (2023), see below. It is therefore very surprising that the essential role of P4 derivatives for electronics, batteries, renewable energy is not recognised and that “Phosphorus” is not included in the list of Strategic Raw Materials.

White Phosphorus (P4, referred as “Phosphorus” in the EU CRM documents) is necessary for battery electrolytes, microchip etching, semiconductors, fire safety, all of which are essential for the “Strategic” sectors of green energy, digital and aerospace. Indeed, “Phosphorus” is identified in the accompanying JRC Foresight Report, as used in batteries, photovoltaics, hydrogen iron/arc furnaces, laptops/smartphones and space/satellites and as having high supply risk (see below).

As per ESPP’s input to the public consultation in November 2022 (HERE), ESPP notes that food materials are excluded from the definition of CRMs but we regret that the proposed CRM Act does not recognise the important links between CRMs and food security. This could be achieved by indicating in the proposed CRM Act the links to the Commission Communication on Fertilisers price and supply (see ESPP eNews n°72).

The proposed CRM Regulation sets out actions to be engaged, at either EU or Member State levels. As written, it seems that some of these actions apply to all Critical Raw Materials, and some only to Strategic Raw Materials (this could be modified by Parliament/Council).

Art:

Actions proposed for STRATEGIC SRMs only

1

EU targets for production of raw materials (extraction: 10% of EU consumption), processing (40%), recycling (15%), supply diversification (no country > 65% of supply)

5 - 17

“Strategic Projects”: expected to make a meaningful contribution to EU supply of SRMs

24

Possibility of EU-level joint supply purchasing systems.

Art:

Actions proposed for ALL CRMs

18

Each MS to define national exploration programmes

19

EU-level monitoring of supply risk, covering: trade flows; demand and supply; concentration of supply; Union and global production and production capacities at different stages of the value chain …

Stress test at least every three years, considering supply chain, processing and recycling, alternative sources

25

Each Member State to adopt a national programme to increase collection of waste with high CRM recovery potential and ensure appropriate recycling, increase re-use, increase use of secondary raw materials including by taking recycled content into account in public procurement.

National systems may include financial incentives.

The Commission will adopt a list of waste streams considered as having high CRM recovery potential.

26

Inventory and feasibility assessment of potential recovery of CRMs from “extractive wastes”.

As currently written, ESPP suggests that this will not apply to phosphogypsum stacks, as these are processing waste, not from “extractive” industries (as defined in 2006/21/EC).

30

The Commission is empowered to adopt Environmental Footprint calculation rules and sustainability certification schemes for CRMs.

33

Strategic partnerships between the EU and third party countries for CRM supply.

Definitions

The proposed Regulation includes a considerable number of definitions. Although these are “for the purposes of this Regulation”, they may pose jurisprudence. As well as some unexpected definitions (e.g. tumble dryer, dishwasher …), the definitions include:

  • Reserves: all mineral occurrences that are economically viable to extract.
  • Raw material: a substance in processed or unprocessed state used as an input for the manufacturing of intermediate or final products, excluding substances predominantly used as food, feed or combustion fuel.
  • Recycling: any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes.
  • Recovery: any operation the principal result of which is waste serving a useful purpose by replacing other materials which would otherwise have been used to fulfil a particular function, or waste being prepared to fulfil that function, in the plant or in the wider economy.

JRC Foresight Report on materials for strategic technologies

Forecasts for EU material demand and supply risks for strategic technologies. “Phosphorus” (P4) is cited for all five sectors and as supply-critical. This seems to include misunderstandings, but other essential uses of P4 are missing. The report covers 15 technologies in five strategic sectors: renewable energy, e-mobility, industry, information & communications technology (ITC) and aerospace/defence. P4 is identified as used in lithium ion batteries, solar photovoltaics (PV), hydrogen direct reduced iron and electric arc furnaces (H2-DRI), smartphones – laptops and space launchers – satellites. Phosphate rock is identified as used in data transmission networks.

The report identifies ‘Phosphorus’ (P4) as the raw material with the highest supply risk for batteries and for H2-DRI (p. 20, p77) and amongst the 15 with highest supply risk for data storage & servers, PV, smartphones-laptops and space-satellite, with 79% of production in China (p.76. Note: JRC indicated 87% in the P4 MSA 2021, see ESPP eNews n°58). However, the need for P4 in batteries seems to be based on the error that P4 is needed to produce lithium iron phosphate for LFP batteries (to ESPP’s understanding, this is incorrect: battery grade LiFePO4 can be and already is today produced via purified merchant-grade phosphoric acid, see SCOPE Newsletter n°136). The JRC Foresight Report further suggests that LFP batteries will compete with fertiliser production for phosphate rock (this is referenced to only one P-rock mine project company’s promotion, Epstein 2022). Not only is this largely wrong (see summary of CRU Phosphates 2023 below), it also suggests the report is confusing “Phosphate Rock” with “P4”. P4 is however a necessary input to produce lithium hexafluorophosphate (LiPF6), which is cited in the Foresight Report for batteries (electrolytes) and tablets-laptops.

The Report also notes (p.90) that P4 is increasingly essential for fire safety, under data storage and servers, stating “increasing move to green materials and chemicals … Phosphorus flame retardants (PFRs) are often proposed as alternatives to brominated flame retardants (BFRs)”. Flame retardants are also needed in smartphone-laptops, but – without explication nor coherence – the Report apparently does not consider the need for phosphorus in fire safety for wind turbines, photovoltaics, heat pumps, space-satellites, 3D-printing …

Gallium indium phosphide and indium phosphide, which do need P4 for their production, and which are used in semiconductors, are cited as needed for photovoltaics and data storage. Other essential uses of P4 in the considered technologies are not cited, in particular thermal phosphoric acid for micro-chip etching, and phosphine for semi-conductor doping (partial modification of Si to P in semiconductors).

Phosphate rock is indicated as needed for data transmission networks, but for no other technology (p84), with no explanation (p.81), but P4 is not cited whereas it is used in fire safety of cables, semiconductors, microchips. Again this suggests that the Report is confusing these two CRMs.

Overall, the designations of which technologies require “Phosphorus” (meaning P4/derivatives) and “Phosphate Rock”, and why, are largely unexplained, often incoherent, and in some cases seem to be based on erroneous information and confusion between these two CRMs. Despite this, and even more so when considering the essential uses of P4 which are not cited or only partly taken into account (chip etching, fire safety, semiconductor doping), the Foresight Report identifies P4 as needed for all the strategic sectors and a significant number of the technologies, and as one of the materials with the highest supply chain risk (this is certain: no production of P4 in the EU, and import dependency on three countries: China, Vietnam and Kazakhstan).

ESPP therefore considers it very surprising that the CRM “Phosphorus” (P4 and derivatives) is not included in the proposed list of EU Strategic Raw Materials, see above.

 

SCRREEN2 Fact Sheet

Published SCRREEN2 input to CRM Act confuses the two CRMs ‘Phosphorus’ (P4) and ‘Phosphate Rock’ and contains various errors.  ESPP had understood that the EU-funded SCRREEN2 project (3 million € EU money, led by the French Atomic Energy Commission CEA), was supposed to deliver input information to support the update of the CRM List, in the form of SCRREEN2 CRM “Factsheets”. The project has apparently failed to do this in time for Phosphate Rock and P4 in that the draft Factsheet (not dated, online 19th March 2023) contains various errors suggesting a lack of relevant understanding (e.g. sodium is cited as one of the three main plant nutrients p.16) and confuses the CRM “Phosphate Rock” with “Phosphorus” (P4) by treating both in the same Factsheet. The separation into two Factsheets of the two CRMs Phosphate Rock and P4 was requested, but is apparently not done in time to input to the CRM Act. Also, the authors do not seem to understand the chemical difference between “phosphate” and “phosphorus”: on p.26 phosphate is calculated to have the molar weight of the element phosphorus. ESPP pointed to such problems already at SCRREEN workshops and in letters in July and September 2022 (see HERE). Many comments are not taken into account in this draft Factsheet. This failure of SCRREEN may explain the apparently confused treatment of P4 in the JRC Foresight Report.

* Feldspar: a naturally occurring alumino-silicate mineral, source of alumina for e.g. glassmaking, ceramics.

European Commission Critical Raw Materials web page:
https://single-market-economy.ec.europa.eu/sectors/raw-materials/areas-specific-interest/critical-raw-materials_en

European Commission press release, 16th March 2023 IP_23_1661 “Critical Raw Materials: ensuring secure and sustainable supply chains for EU's green and digital future” – includes links to Commission Communication, FAQ, etc. https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_23_1661

Proposed EU Critical Raw Materials Act, COM(2023)160, 16th March 2023 https://single-market-economy.ec.europa.eu/publications/european-critical-raw-materials-act_en

JRC Foresight Report 2023 “Supply chain analysis and material demand forecast in strategic technologies and sectors in the EU – A foresight study”, S. Carrera et al., ISBN 978-92-68-00339-8 (266 pages) https://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC132889

SCRREEN2 (“Solutions for CRitical Raw materials - a European Expert Network 2) draft FactSheets https://scrreen.eu/crms-2023/

Public consultation open to 16th May 2023 https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/13597-European-Critical-Raw-Materials-Act_en

 

 

Policy

 

United Nations adopts 50% nutrient loss reduction target

The COP15 Kunming-Montreal convention Global Biodiversity Framework, December 2022, includes the target to reduce nutrient losses by 50% by 2030, that is the same nutrient loss reduction target as the EU Green Deal (Farm-to-Fork and Biodiversity Strategies, both May 2020, see SCOPE Newsletter n°139). Target n°7 of Global targets for 2030 aims to reduce all pollution to levels not harmful to biodiversity and ecosystems and specifies “reducing excess nutrients lost to the environment by at least half, including through more efficient nutrient cycling and use” as well as reducing by 50% risks from pesticides and hazardous chemicals and addressing plastic pollution.

United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, decision adopted 7-19 December 2022 Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework https://www.cbd.int/doc/decisions/cop-15/cop-15-dec-04-en.pdf

Sewage plants are currently incompatible with small river & stream water quality

Statistical analysis suggests that sewage works discharge flow > 6.5% of low flow* of small rivers and streams means likely failure to achieve Good Quality Status required by the EU Water Framework Directive. The correlation is not found in larger rivers (Strahler order >3). Nearly 60% of the 1.7 million km of Europe’s rivers and streams are not in Good Ecological Status, usually as a consequence of multiple pressures. The correlation between higher proportion of (low) flow from sewage works discharge to quality status failure held for smaller rivers and streams held not only for the EU overall, but also for 7 out of 10 of the largest catchments (not for the Rhône catchment) and to some extent for all of 6 river types. Across Europe, 82% of length of smaller rivers and streams were not in Good Ecological Status. A maximum recommended discharge / river Q10* low flow ratio of 6.5% was derived, based on 50% probability of achieving Good Quality Status. If 90% probability of Good Quality Status was targeted, this would result in a ratio of 12%. Nearly 60% of segments of small rivers and streams in Europe today exceed the 6.5% ratio and this concerns 9 700 of the EU’s 26 500 sewage works (mainly smaller sewage works: 2/3 < 10 000 p.e.). These sewage works are distributed across the UK, but >80% of sewage works exceed the 6.5% ratio in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Solutions to mitigate discharges to smaller rivers and streams include re-routing discharge to larger rivers, additional wastewater processing, appropriate re-use of wastewater or restoration of ecosystems.

* 10% quartile low flow

“Are waste-water treatment plants failing to protect the ecological health of European streams?”, EU Commission Science for Environment Policy n°595, 15th February 2023 https://environment.ec.europa.eu/news/are-waste-water-treatment-plants-failing-protect-ecological-health-european-streams-2023-02-15_en

“Why wastewater treatment fails to protect stream ecosystems in Europe”, O. Büttner et al., Water Research 217 (2022) 118382 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2022.118382

 

 

Summary of 15th CRU Phosphates conference

Phosphates 2023 took place in Istanbul, 27th February – 1st March 2023, with 370 participants, 50 industry stands and nearly 30 technical presentations. Ludwig Hermann, for ESPP, presented European policy perspectives.

Humphrey Knight, CRU, summarised market challenges of 2022: prices hit a 15-year high, resulting in a significant drop in demand. Despite high crop sales prices, phosphate fertiliser affordability was unfavourable. Demand for high-grade rock fell more than for low-grade rock. With the fall in demand for phosphate fertilisers, industry thus managed to ride through major supply disruptions. China’ exports fell by nearly 50% in 2022, and may remain reduced as the country’s priority turns to national supply. Contrary to initial expectations, Russia was able to continue exporting fertilisers, but showed a considerable decrease in exports of high-grade phosphate rock comparable to other high-grade rock suppliers. Price and supply challenges are expected to become less acute in 2023.

Technical presentations particularly addressed speciality fertilisers and sustainability. Ravi Hiremath, Solvay, presented a chemical additive (ACCO-PHOS) to chelate cadmium, copper, arsenic and other metals out of phosphoric acid, so enabling producing of fertilisers with low heavy metal levels. Michael Meyer, EasyMining, presented the Ash2Phos process to recover phosphorus as high-quality calcium phosphate from sewage sludge incineration ash. Agnes von Garnier, Collin Bartlett and Hannes Storch, Metso Outotec, presented a process to recover sulphuric acid from phosphogypsum stockpiles, to address the expected shortfall in sulphuric acid supply when supply from oil refineries slows down. Hadrien Leruth, Prayon Technologies, presented the GetMoreP and Ecophos processes, as routes to upgrade secondary phosphorus sources, low grade phosphate rock or phosphate mine tailings to dicalcium phosphate.

Sam Adham, CRU, discussed expected future development of Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) batteries, as a lower cost alternative to Lithium Ion. Phosphate rock consumption for LFP battery cathode production is disproportionally high due to very high purity requirements. This could be balanced by co-production of merchant grade phosphoric acid carrying the impurities that have been removed from LFP grade. Demand for phosphate rock for LFP production is expected to reach 4 – 5 Mt/y (rock) per year in coming decades, compared to current total world production of around 200 Mt/y of phosphate rock (see ESPP FactSheet).

Several phosphate rock mining projects were presented, in Europe (Norge Mining, Stavanger Region, Norway), South Africa (Schiel Phosphate Mining Project, Limpopo Province), Canada (First Phosphate, Quebec) and Australia (Verdant Minerals and Arianne, both in the Northern Territories). Most of them target high grade resources suitable for LFP batteries and other industrial uses.

15th CRU Phosphates Conference (2023)

The 16th CRU Phosphates Conference will take place in Warsaw, Poland, 26-28 February 2024

https://events.crugroup.com/phosphates/home

 

ESPP new member

 

European Biochar Industry Consortium (EBI)

European Biochar IndustryEBI is the voice of leading players in the rapidly developing European biochar industry. EBI supports biochar as a high-potential solution for phosphorus recycling (from sewage sludge and certain animal by-products), carbon mitigation, and agricultural soil improvement. For a broad range of feedstocks, particularly those where contaminants or sanitary safety pose challenges, such as sewage sludge or certain animal by-products, pyrolysis enables a circular economy. By increasing awareness of the benefits of biochar and advocating for science-backed regulations and industry standards, EBI is working towards developing the European biochar industry into an important and established sector. The overall aim is to contribute to Europe’s fight against climate change. The sector development is already in process, by end of 2022, the EU had 130 installations, producing around 53 000 t/y of biochar. See EBI Market Report here. EBI has 83 members, who are pyrolysis plant owners and operators, users, system and technology providers. Depending on the process and input materials, which can include plant-based, non-plant-based and waste streams, biochars can be used in animal feed, air, soil and water purification (activated carbon), as well as fertilisers or soil improvers. Moreover, the market potential of biogenic carbon-based construction materials and polymers obtained through pyrolysis is growing fast. By becoming a member of the ESPP, EBI finds an important ally in advancing nutrient recovery and waste stream valorisation, including pyrolysis as a treatment path for residues like sewage sludge and work towards a circular economy as well as the creation of quality carbon removals. EBI has recently launched advocacy to request that the European Commission revisit the current exclusion of sewage sludge biochar from the Fertilising Products Regulation (CMC14). The position paper is based on a reassessment of recent data showing that pharmaceuticals, microplastics and PFAS are eliminated in pyrolysis under appropriate conditions (see ESPP eNews n°73).

European Biochar Industry Consortium (EBI) www.biochar-industry.com

EBI European Biochar Market report 2022/2023 HERE

 

 

 

Research

 

IFS webinar debate on definition of “plant nutrient”

International Fertiliser Society webinar proposed a new definition of a “plant nutrient”, aiming for a wider concept of “one nutrition”, following 2022 concept paper from scientists and industry (IFA). A survey is now open for input. The authors suggest that current definitions of “plant nutrient” are widely interpreted to mean that the nutrient must be essential for all plants, whereas science is today showing that a number of elements can improve plant growth and development, where this was not previously recognised (e.g. silicon, iodine), or may be only essential for some crops in some conditions (e.g. aluminium for certain tea varieties, sodium for some species). The authors note that US regulation currently defines a plant nutrient as being “essential for normal growth of plants” but does not specify for all plants*.

The authors propose as a new definition “A mineral plant nutrient is an element which is essential or beneficial for plant growth and development or for the quality attributes of the plant or harvested product, of a given plant species, grown in its natural or cultivated environment”.

They call for a consensus agreement on a new definition of “Plant Nutrient”, suggesting that this process should bring together scientists, industry and regulators. ESPP suggests that this is the logical remit of standardisation (ISO). The authors also suggest that a global body should be established to periodically review evidence as to which elements can be considered to meet the new definition under which conditions.

ESPP notes that the International Standardisation Organisation (ISO) has fixed a clear and simple definition of Plant Nutrient: “substance that is essential or beneficial for plant growth” (ISO 8157:2022 Fertilizers, soil conditioners and beneficial substances — Vocabulary).

ESPP also notes that the EU Fertilising Product Regulation (FPR) uses the term “nutrient” but does not include a definition for it. However, the FPR does in effect specify a limited list of recognised nutrients, in that it defines a Macronutrient fertiliser (cf. PFC1(C)(I)(a)(ii)) as providing N, P, K, Ca, Mg, Na or S and a Micronutrient fertiliser (PFC1(C)(II)) as providing B, Co, Cu, Fe, Mn, Mo, Zn.

* Source: AAPFCO “Official Publication” n°76, 2003, which indicates as the definition for “Secondary Nutrient (T-9, page 94) “those other than the primary nutrients that are essential for the normal growth of plants and that may need to be added to the growth medium …”

IFS (International Fertiliser Society) webinars: https://fertiliser-society.org/product-category/recordings-and-webinars/webinars/

“What is a plant nutrient? Changing definitions to advance science and innovation in plant nutrition”, P. Brown, F-J. Zhao, A. Dobermann, Plant Soil (2022) 476:11–23 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-021-05171-w

IFS webinar “A new definition of ‘Plant Nutrient’ and its implications for fertilizer regulations globally”, 22nd February 2023 https://fertiliser-society.org/ifs-events/2023-ifs-technical-webinar-programme/

Survey open: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfxAqeOSMCwfszUov9PXv78zdFqd7Dz8ONf_jdvcfH9tDw3wA/viewform  

Vegan diets require lower N, P and K fertiliser inputs

Fertiliser requirements are calculated for vegan vs. omnivore diet, with different animal feed use efficiency, crop use efficiency and recycling rates. Overall results are presented as total mass of fertiliser, but calculations are presented separately for N, P and K. Key influencing parameters are identified as: livestock feed use efficiency (IFE), fraction of animal manures reaching and taken up by crops (depending on manure and agri-food waste recycling / reuse scenarios, and crop use efficiency) and N-loss during composting of manures and food wastes. It is underlined that in intensive livestock systems not all manure is returned to land (e.g. China only 35-75% of livestock manures returned to land, Ma 2010, Hou 2013) or manure may be applied in excess to some land or not distributed usefully on land*. The authors conclude that estimates of fertiliser requirements vary widely depending on the coefficients used for these different efficiency factors. With a relatively high hypothesis of 70% of return and uptake of manure by crops, an omnivore diet would require (table 5) 12 – 120 x more P-fertiliser than a vegan diet and 5 – 30 x more N-fertiliser. These estimates compare to estimates published by other authors of 20 – 36 x for P and 6 – 13 x for N. The authors note that Van Kernebeek 2016 estimated that including some meat in diet would be optimal, but that this assumes that livestock and animal feed crops are produced on marginal land and that there is no competition for this land space for other uses (e.g. energy crops).

* ESPP notes that it is nearly inevitable that manure will not be appropriately distributed even in extensive livestock systems, because animals tend to concentrate excretion at feeding, drinking or rumination points – see Kreuzer in SCOPE Newsletter n°131.

See also Lancet Commission, Springmann et al. in ESPP eNews n°48

“Savings in fertilizer requirements from plant-based diets”, L. Harvey, Resources, Conservation & Recycling 190 (2023) 106820 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2022.106820

Phosphorus Use Efficiency (PUE) is improving in China but is still low

Despite improvements, China still has low PUE (c. 40% national average) and significant phosphorus surplus (over 25 kgP/ha), with high regional variations. Both PUE and surplus are however improving since around 2005 – 2015. Phosphorus flow analysis is based on data for crop yields, straw, livestock, fertiliser and cultivated areas for Chinese official data, FAO and literature. Assessment was made at the national level for 1990 – 2018 and at the provincial level (grouped into seven regions) for 2005 – 2018. Around 7.5 MtP/y were input to China’s farmland over this period, of which c. 80% in mineral fertiliser, whereas the average output was <3 MtP/y. Higher phosphorus use efficiencies (PUE) in the North East China probably correspond to climates with rainfall, allowing organic matter accumulation in soil. Lower PUE and soil P accumulation (P-surplus) correspond to intensive crop production regions with high fertiliser use. The authors conclude that China crossed the Kuznets curve for phosphorus in 2007, with use efficiency improving and environmental losses decreasing since then, but that China still has one of the highest fertiliser inputs in the world, and phosphorus use efficiency relatively low, and suggest the need for regionalised policies to improve PUE and reduce agricultural phosphorus surpluses.

“Phosphorus use efficiency has crossed the turning point of the environmental kuznets curve: Opportunities and challenges for crop production in China”, W. Shen et al., J. Environmental Management 326 (2023) 116754 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2022.116754

 

Phosphorus uptake controls plant response to increased atmospheric CO2

Meta-analysis of 111 studies shows that effects of elevated carbon dioxide (eCO2) on plant biomass are best explained by plant phosphorus uptake and that eCO2 modifies aboveground biomass P pool and biomass P concentration. A literature search for paper covering both increasing CO2 and phosphorus found over 1600 papers (since 1950), of which nearly 550 were found relevant after analysis, of which 111 were retained as including data on biomass or P pools/concentrations. eCO2 showed a +13% increase in above ground biomass, but no increase in litter biomass, and to a +20% increase in above ground biomass P pool, +14% increase in biomass below ground P pool, but a decrease in above ground biomass P concentrations (+7%) and no change in below ground biomass P concentrations. Plant P uptake, which was related to biomass, was the variable which best explained increased biomass with eCO2. Effects of eCO2 on the phosphorus cycle were impacted by variables such as duration of experiment and aridity. The authors conclude that plant phosphorus uptake should be considered in future biosphere carbon dioxide modelling.

“Plant biomass responses to elevated CO2 are mediated by phosphorus uptake”, X. Han et al., Science of the Total Environment 863 (2023) 160775 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.160775

 

 

Nutrient recycling

 

Lex4Bio survey on “Bio-Based Fertilisers”

EU Horizon 2020 project Lex4Bio launches online survey of farmers, consumers, fertiliser producers and food & beverage industry to identify drivers and barriers to uptake of bio-based fertilisers (BBFs). The surveys, for each target sector, are online in several different languages. Depending on the target, questions cover attitudes to using waste or recycled materials to fertilise food crops, perceived safety of recycled nutrient sources, different recycled materials.

Lex4Bio surveys on bio-based fertilisers https://lnkd.in/dsB5AxFB

 

EasyMining LIFE RE-Fertilize N-recovery webinar


One-hour webinar (available online) offers detailed presentation of EasyMining’s Aqua2N nitrogen recovery process operational experience (4 m3/h) and now upscaling (10 m3/h), including Biophos’ R&D Director. The two step process removes >95% of ammonium from wastewater liquors by struvite precipitation, then dissolves the struvite in sulphuric acid, recycling the magnesium and phosphorus back to the precipitation stage, and producing ammonium sulphate solution (c. 10% solution = c. 2% N/ww, with objective to concentrate to 30 - 40% solution). Dines Thornberg, Biofos, responsible for treating Copenhagen area’s wastewater explains that the ammonium from sewage sludge digestate liquid fraction (which is returned to the sewage works) can reduce N loading to the works considerably, so increasing biological treatment capacity. Anna Lundbom, EasyMining, explains that the Aqua2N process can reduce sewage works nitrous oxide losses by 15 – 30 %, significantly reducing climate impact. Mikael Hedström, EasyMining, explains that the process is part of EasyMining’s objective to recycle resources and so mitigate climate emissions. The process has been tested, in the EU-funded LIFE RE-Fertilize project on municipal wastewater sludge liquor (Biofos Lynetten wwtp) and landfill liquor (Högbytorp) with a 4 m3/h pilot, a scale appropriate for smaller wastewater plants, enabling optimisation, and demonstrating replicability and transferability. A 10 m3/h unit for larger plants has been designed and is now entering the commercialisation phase. The recovered ammonium sulphate solution has been tested in pot trials by the Swedish Agricultural University and by farmers (Lantmännen).

EasyMining Aqua2N pilot 

Photos: EasyMining Aqua2N pilot

RE-Fertilize webinar, 26th January 2023, watch replay here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mbuENQsJfo

See also ESPP-DPP-NNP Nutrient Recycling Technology Catalogue http://www.phosphorusplatform.eu/techcatalogue  

 

 

Implementation of German sewage P-recovery obligation

Comparison of 3 digestion and 3 analysis methods, plus interlaboratory comparison recommends ICP-OES after microwave digestion to provide reliable analysis of sewage sludge phosphorus content. 14 sludge samples from 11 different sewage works were analysed for phosphorus content using the two digestion methods and three analysis methods indicated as regards P-recovery in the German Sewage Sludge Ordinance (*): aqua regia digestion in a microwave or under reflux conditions, then inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES), inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), or photometric phosphorus determination with ammonium molybdate. These methods (tested in some cases by several laboratories) showed variation of around +/- 20% in results for P-content. ICP-OES after aqua regia digestion in a microwave was identified as the most reliable method. A mixed sludge sample was analysed using these methods by 28 laboratories, showing around 7.2 % reproducibility variation in results for P content. Data show, for the sludges from these eleven wwtps, P-content of 1.7 – 3.8% and iron content of 1.4 – 5 % Fe (dry weight).

Phosphorus in sewage sludges:

Previous studies suggest similar levels of P in sewage: 0.8% - 31% (Krogstad et al. 2005), 0 - 4 % (Guivarch 2001), 2 - 6% (Frossard 1996) SCOPE Newsletter n°73, 2.6–3.4% (Cydzik‑Kwiatkowska & Nosek 2020), 3.4 % (Phong 2022), 4.3% (Falk 2020).

The European Commission seminar of 1980 indicated P-content of sewage sludges:

  • For Switzerland, increase from 1.1 % P/dm in 1971 to average of 2.7 % P/dm in 1979: (0.2 - 4.6 % in wwtp without P removal and 0.9 - 7.9 % in wwtp with P-removal). The increase is considered to be due to implementation of P-removal.
  • For Belgium (Wallonia), 0.2 – 0.9 % P/dm
  • For Finland, 2 – 3.7% P/dm for chemical P-removal sludge

* German sewage P-recovery Ordinance: AbfKlärV 2017 German sewage sludge directive (Verordnung zur Neuordnung der Klärschlammverwertung) LINK

“Determination of the phosphorus content in sewage sludge: comparison of different aqua regia digestion methods and ICP‑OES, ICP‑MS, and photometric determination”, T. Sichler et al., Environmental Sciences Europe (2022) 34:99 LINK.

See also Sichler et al. in ESPP eNews n°66.

 

 

Phosphorus in sewage sludge incineration ash (SSIA) is not short-term plant available

Ashes from four German sewage sludge incinerators were tested as phosphorus fertilisers in 4-week pot trials, showing considerably lower P Use Efficiency than mineral P fertiliser (MCP) and similar or worse than phosphate rock in these short-duration tests. Pot trials used the P-sensitive flowering plant Tagetes patula (French marigold) with soil pH of 6 or 4.5 with weekly applications of P fertiliser/ash and of nitrogen as required. Particle size distribution of the ashes was recorded. Phosphorus Use Efficiency was calculated based on P uptake. At soil pH 4.5 plant fresh weight was similar with the sludge ashes compared to MCP (water soluble P fertiliser) or phosphate rock, whereas at pH 6 fresh weight was significantly higher with ash than with phosphate rock, but lower than with MCP. Plant P uptake and P Use Efficiency was significantly lower than for MCP at both soil pHs, and was four times lower at soil pH 6. The authors note that phosphorus solubility test methods with calcium chloride + diethylenetriaminepentaacetate (CAT) and calcium-acetate-lactate (CAL), as widely used in Germany, do not give useful predictions of plant P availability in sewage sludge incineration ash.

“Phosphorus Availability from German Sewage Sludge Ashes to Plants Cultivated in Soilless Growing Media of Contrasting pH”, D. Hauck et al., Agronomy 2022, 12, 2610 DOI.

 

 

Phosphorus uptake from nine secondary materials and P extraction methods

Phosphorus efficiency of struvite in pot trials was the same or better than mineral P fertiliser, but was considerably lower for an iron phosphate containing sewage sludge and for two sewage sludge ashes.

In papers 2021 and 2022-1, RAE (relative agronomic efficiency) of phosphorus in secondary materials was compared to mineral phosphate fertiliser (TSP = triple super phosphate) and no phosphate (control) in seven month pot trials with perennial ryegrass at three P dose levels (one application at start):

  • Two different struvites, both recovered from sewage, both c. 8% P, C-org < 0.5%,
  • Dried pelletised sewage sludge from a sewage works, 0.8% P, 16 % C-org, 2% Fe
  • ASH1: ash from sewage sludge from a rotary kiln process, 900-1000°C with sodium sulphate additive, 6% P, low C-org, 4.4% Fe
  • ASH2: ash from sewage sludge from a two-step rotary kiln process (pyrolysis 650-750°C then incineration 900-1100°C, without chemical additives at this stage of the technology development), c. 6% P, c. 8% C-org and 16% Fe.

The first paper (2021) compares the phosphorus fertiliser effectiveness of the five secondary materials to TSP. At 9 and 19 kgP/ha, after one month, one of the two struvites showed phosphorus fertiliser efficiency (RAE relative agronomic efficiency) similar to mineral fertiliser (Fig 3). The other struvite, the two ash materials and the sewage sludge pellets showed considerably lower RAE after one month. However, RAEs were similar after one month at 28 kgP/ha application (except for ASH2 which was much lower). After four months the two struvites showed RAEs similar to mineral P fertiliser. After seven months, the RAEs of the two struvites were > 110% (better than TSP), whereas the two ashes and sludge pellets showed RAEs of below 75% at 9 and 19 kgP/ha and 30 - 84 % at 28 kgP/ha.

A second paper (2022-1), based on the same pot trial data, compares P measured by eleven different extraction methods, ranging from strong acid “destructive” total-P to Olsen-P, to shoot P uptake in seven cuts from one to seven months. This shows (table S11)  that, for these six materials (two struvites, dried FeP sludge, two ash materials, TSP) and for cumulative P uptake after seven months, only six extraction methods showed correlation > 0.6 (in order of highest correlation: 2% citric acid, microwave digestion + nitric acid, nitric acid, ammonium lactate, NAC = neutral ammonium citrate, microwave digestion + aqua regia) whereas (table 4) five showed correlation < 0.5 (Mehlich3, Bray 2, water, calcium chloride and Olsen-P). However, all extraction methods showed correlation for P uptake after seven months > 0.6 if the mineral fertiliser TSP was excluded. After only one month, six methods showed correlation > 0.6 to shoot P uptake (in order: water, calcium chloride, NAC, Mehlich3, microwave + nitric, ammonium lactate).

The third paper (2022-2) shows results of 4-month pot trials with perennial ryegrass for Euphore output ash (two-step rotary kiln process without chemical additives at this stage of the technology development, see ESPP-DPP-NNP Technology Catalogue), iron phosphate extracted from sewage sludge, crab carapace material and microalgae, in three different substrates (compared to TSP and control), concluding that four months were needed for P from these materials to become plant available.

2021: “Impact of time and phosphorus application rate on phosphorus bioavailability and efficiency of secondary fertilizers recovered from municipal wastewater”, Chemosphere 282 (2021) 131017 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.131017

2022-1:“Phosphorus Availability in Recycled Fertilizers: Comparison of 11 Chemical Extraction Methods with Plant Uptake During a 7‑Month Growth Experiment”, A. Bogdan et al., J. Soil Science and Plant Nutrition 2022 https://doi.org/10.1007/s42729-022-01075-5

2022-2: “Substrate-Driven Phosphorus Bioavailability Dynamics of Novel Inorganic and Organic Fertilizing Products Recovered from Municipal Wastewater - Tests with Ryegrass”, A. Bogdan et al., Agronomy 2022, 12, 292. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12020292

 

 

Freeze concentration to concentrate digestate RO liquor 

Progressive and suspension freeze concentration (FC) were tested at lab scale to concentrate the nutrients from a membrane filtrate (ultrafiltration + reverse osmosis RO) liquor from pig slurry and agro-industrial waste digestate, from an anaerobic digester in Catalonia, Spain. The RO process, operating on the liquid fraction of solid-liquid separated digestate, gives clean effluent water which can be discharged and a nutrient “concentrate” (1%N, 0.02%P, 2%K). Freeze concentration was tested in 2 litre lab reactors with circulating refrigerant at -5, -10 and -15°C with the aim to further concentrate the nutrients present in the RO “concentrate”. After two hours of freeze concentration, around 56 % of N, 90 % of P and 63 % of K was concentrated in the liquid fraction (50% of the initial volume), that is phosphorus concentration was nearly doubled by the freeze drying whereas N and K concentration not increased by more than 20%. In an earlier paper, the same authors tested multi-stage progressive freeze concentration in the same 2 litre lab reactor on cheese whey from a dairy processing factory, achieving 2 – 3 x increases in lactose and protein contents after 2 – 4 freeze concentration cycles. Further studies underway, but not published yet, assess the freeze concentration technology at a pilot scale using a 40-litre reactor tested with digestate (in the Fertimanure Horizon 2020 project). The authors conclude that freeze concentration has a similar or lower operational energy consumption than membrane concentration technologies and offers significant energy-saving potential compared to thermal and evaporation processes.  

“Application of Freeze Concentration Technologies to Valorize Nutrient-Rich Effluents Generated from the Anaerobic Digestion of Agro-Industrial Wastes”, I. Uald-lamkaddam et al., Sustainability 2021, 13, 13769. https://doi.org/10.3390/su132413769

“Progressive freeze concentration of cheese whey for protein and lactose recovery”, I.Uald Lamkaddam et al., International Dairy Journal 139 (2023) 105572 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.idairyj.2022.105572

 

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