May 2, 2019

New rules to boost the access of organic and waste-based fertilizers to the EU

According to the EU Council and Parliament only 5 % of organic waste material is currently recycled and used as fertilizers in Europe. However, this is expected to change as EU lawmakers are about to agree on regulations to promote bio-based fertilisers. The new rules will facilitate the access of organic and waste-based fertilisers to the EU Single Market.

Fertilising products from organic materials are currently outside the scope of the current Fertilisers Regulation in force, which means only non-organic fertilisers can be freely be traded across the EU. Artificial fertilisers require a great deal of energy for production. This legislation is good news for farmers, the citizens, and the environment. It will support the health of citizens by producing healthier food from healthier soils.

According to estimates, if more bio-waste was recycled, it could replace up to 30 % of non-organic fertilisers and considerably reduce EU dependence on fertilisers imports. The EU imports more than six million tonnes of phosphate rock a year, but it could recover up to two million tonnes of phosphorus from sewage sludge, biodegradable waste, meat and bone meal or manure, according to the Commission.

Some 128 million tons of digestate are produced annually in the 12,000 biogas plants in Europe. These fertilizers contain valuable ingredients that are used to supply plants with nutrients. The new regulation aims to bring more novel fertilizing products to market – particularly those containing nutrients or organic matter recycled from biowaste or other secondary raw materials. The impact of EU waste and fertilizer regulations on the use of digestate as bio-fertilizer is positive because they

  • set a new standard for EU-wide fertilizers (quality, safety and environmental criteria),
  • open up markets for export/import,
  • reduce dependence on imported nutrients,
  • promote increased use of recycled materials for producing fertilisers,
  • help to develop the circular economy,
  • ease market access for novel organic fertilisers,
  • create alternative renewable solutions.

The new rules will replace 28 differing sets of rules with one, single coherent set for the whole EU. According to the EU lawmakers, this will help to reduce waste, energy consumption and environmental damage, as well as limit the risks to human health. The agreement is now subject to formal approval by the European Council. With this provisional agreement it is expected that the regulation will come into force in Autumn 2019 and then be directly applicable in all Member States and will become mandatory in 2022.

Change is good!