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Italmatch Chemicals, ESPP member, project for more sustainable phosphorus chemistry has been approved by the EU LIFE programme. The LIFE TRIALKYL project will demonstrate more sustainable and efficient production of phosphorus compounds used in a range of applications, including crop protection, fire safety, plastics, childcare products and pharmaceuticals. The new process will avoid toxic chemical intermediaries and byproducts (e.g. tertiary amines, phenol derivatives) and will not produce contaminated wastewater because water use is largely avoided (640 000 litres/year of water saved). It will also use less energy and generate ammonium chloride (NH4Cl) as a by-product, which can be recycled in other sectors such as agriculture.

“Italmatch takes part in LIFE, the European Community program dedicated to sustainable development”

Greece was fined 10 million € in October plus 20 000 € per day for failing to install adequate sewage collection and treatment in 6 areas (agglomerations > 15 000 pe), as required by the 1991 Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive 1991/271. The daily fine will run until compliance is achieved, depending on the number of areas still not in conformity. The European Commission has now asked for an additional 16 million € plus 35 000 € per day fine for failure to collect and treat sewage discharged into the Gulf of Elefsina, in the area of Thriasio Pedio. Greece was already condemned by the European Court of Justice for this same area in 2004 and the Commission notes that still today only 28% of sewage is collected and treated. Poland has also received a ‘final warning’ from the European Commission for failure to implement the EU Water Framework Directive 2000/2000, including failure to classify water bodies, large scale works carried out on rivers and unjustified exemptions to Good Quality Status objectives.

European Commission 19/11/2015 “Commission proposes fines and refers GREECE back to the Court of Justice of the EU over persistent poor waste water treatment. Greece facing fines over lack of urban waste water treatment”

European Court of Justice, case C-167/14, 15/11/2015 “Because of its delay in implementing the directive on urban waste water treatment, Greece is ordered to pay a fixed sum of €10 million and a periodic fine of €3.64 million per semester of delay”

ESPP’s General Assembly will take place in Brussels on 2nd December 2015, with in the morning a discussion on policies, tools and actions to develop the circular economy for bio-nutrients. To participate, contact ESPP

The European Commission (DG GROW) has published a decision rejecting Sweden’s request to restrict cadmium (Cd) in artists’ paints. Artists’ paints represent up to 10% of cadmium in sewage sludge, whereas less hazardous pigments are available and already on the market. Read more

On October 1-2, 2015 an international workshop on Technospheric Mining was held at the Technical University Vienna (TU Wien). Chris Thornton presented the current situation on sustainable phosphorus management in Europe and outlined the progress of EU policies.


He highlighted the recent key development of the proposed EU Circular Economy policy. It is estimated that a circular economy system for food production could cut Europe’s food cost per person by 30%. Bio-nutrients were identified as a priority sector for EU Circular Economy policy by a quarter of respondents to the EU’s 2015 public consultation. ESPP is actively involved in this process, fostering stakeholder input to policy development.

In 2014 phosphate rock was added to the EU List of Critical Raw Materials. Currently there is an updated assessment underway. Chris Thornton pointed out that the assessment should consider not only “phosphate rock”, but also phosphorus in all forms (P) in order to address bio-nutrients and recycling, and also specific forms of phosphorus, in particular White Phosphorus (P4) which is critical for strategic industries (chemicals, fire safety, electronics) and is no longer produced in Europe (100% technological import dependency).

ESPP and its partners are directly involved in a range of current EU regulatory and policy processes:

  • EU Fertiliser Regulation recast: taking recovered nutrient products into account and EU criteria development (JRC) for struvite, biomass ashes
  • Organic Farming Regulation: proposed validation of recycled P products
  • REACH (EU chemicals regulation): Art 2(7)d “recovered” substances, by-products
  • BAT BREFs (Industrial Emissions Directive): waste incineration, pig & poultry production
  • BEMPs: EMAS (EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme Regulation) “agriculture”
  • EIP-AGRI Focus Group proposal: agronomic use of recovered nutrient products
  • EU Critical Raw Materials list: MSA update - Standards: CEN SABE, ISO 275 …

Download here the full conference paper

Find here all presentations to download

The Dutch Parliament has announced to have a general meeting about the Circular Economy on the 17th of December. The meeting is a response to the letter sent by the Secretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment of the Netherlands to the Dutch Parliament addressing the question of phosphorus recycling. This letter resulted from input from the Netherlands Nutrient Platform, presenting the progress made in the Netherlands since the launch of the Phosphorus Value Chain Agreement of 2011 and outlining the challenges for the future. The Dutch Nutrient Platform underlines to the Parliament that we are not yet finished with phosphorus and that it’s important to keep the topic high on the agenda.

For more information you can contact the Dutch Nutrient Platform at or visit the website

New ISP standard for sustainability criteria for bioenergy production (15/9/2015) recognises importance of nutrients and phosphorus:

  • Key parameters and metrics to assess impacts ( calculation per process output of emissions and flows, cited example: g phosphorus applied / kg biomass produced (Guidance C7)
  • water quality indicator ( inc. eutrophication, requiring specification of phosphorus removal level technology implemented (Guidance B5)
  • soil quality and productivity ( actions to avoid soil nutrient losses and ensure soil nutrient fertility, including monitoring soil nutrient changes, agricultural management practices

Find mor details on the iso website.

Phosphorus recycling: ESPP publishes information note on regulatory status of recovered struvite (REACH, Fertiliser Regulation, End-of-Waste).

During the 2nd European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference, Berlin, 7th March 2015 the regulatory status of recovered struvite was discussed between a number of struvite producing companies.

The file can be downloaded here.

After consultation of companies and stakeholders, ESPP has proposed outline criteria for using different biomass combustion ashes as fertilisers or input raw materials for fertiliser production. This document has been transmitted to the European Commission for consideration in the current EU Fertiliser Regulation revision process. The document proposes safety and agronomic criteria, for different biomass combustion inputs and processes, covering in particular meat and bone meal ash (MBMA), poultry litter combustion ash, biomass renewable energy ash, sewage sludge and other sludge incineration ash. The proposed criteria can be downloaded here, comments are welcome.

ESPP has submitted, to the European Commission, proposed quality and safety criteria for (a) use of biomass ashes as a fertiliser or (b) as a raw material in fertiliser production. The proposed criteria, elaborated after concertation with ESPP members and partners, covers sewage sludge incineration ash (SSIA), poultry litter combustion ash, biomass energy ash, meat and bone meal ash (MBMA) and specific industry sector biomass ashes, in total over 600 000 tonnes P/year. Consideration. ESPP already proposed criteria for recovered struvite as a fertiliser, which have been transmitted to the EU’s JRC (Joint Research Centre) for consideration in the process of developing EU criteria with the objective of implementation in the EU Fertiliser Regulation revision (criteria for future CE label). The proposed criteria for ash cover input materials, combustion conditions, possible contaminants (heavy metals, dioxins …) and agronomic value of the ash. The document notes that poultry litter combustion ash and MBMA are already proven and used as fertilisers in Europe. ESPP welcomes comments on the proposed criteria.

The EU has published the Horizon 2020 (RTD funding) draft (not yet officially validated) work programme 2016-2017, including SC2 (societal challenge) covering food security, agriculture and forestry, marine and inland water and the bioeconomy. Food security in the context of resource scarcities, sustainability, territorial development and employment and growth in the bioeconomy are identified as priorities, emphasising stakeholder involvement. Several specific challenges directly refer to nutrient management:

  • stresses in crop production (nutrient and water use efficiency NUE and WUE) – SFS-01-2016
  • closing loops at the farm and regional level, focus on C, N and P cycling, including improving agro-ecosystem nutrient efficiency, plant – animal interfaces, addressing consumption patterns and waste – SFS-30-2017
  • resource efficient urban agriculture (EU – China partnership), including closing nutrient cycles and efficient nutrient use – SFS-48-2017
  • nutrient recycling, within the theme large-scale algae biomass integrated biorefineries – BG-01-2016
  • sustainable seafood safety and dietary properties, includes processing of marine and aquaculture-derived nutrients – BG-08-2017
  • public-private partnerships (PPP) in the bioeconomy, including nutrient recycling (SGA ERA-NET food security prize 2017)

The above specific (proposed) calls are in addition to horizontal funding such as SME instrument, thematic networks, on-farm demonstrations, or calls covering wider themes which also cover nutrient stewardship, such as “Resiliant and resource efficient value-chains” or “bio-based markets of the future”.
“Draft Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2016-2017 in the area of Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research and the bioeconomy”

Please follow this link to get to the Horizon 2020 draft work programmes 2016-17

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

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

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


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

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

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

The programme for the workshop can be found here


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

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

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

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

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

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

EU Investment Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Read more


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


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

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




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

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