EU proposes new rule to increase organic and waste-based fertilisers use

The European Commission (EU) has proposed a new regulation that seeks easy access of organic and waste-based fertilisers to the EU single market, putting them on a level playing field with conventional, non-organic fertilisers.

The new rule aims to create fresh market areas for new companies, and help to cut waste, energy consumption and environmental damage.

The EU recently adopted a circular economy package, which also mentions the re-use of raw materials that are currently disposed of as waste, and the commission’s new regulation establishes common rules on transforming bio-waste into raw materials that can be used to produce fertilising products.

“Very few of the abundant bio-waste resources are transformed into valuable fertilising products.”

It also describes safety, quality and labelling requirements that need to be adopted by fertilising products in order to be traded freely across the EU.

According to the rule, producers will have to ensure that their products meet those requirements and limits for organic contaminants, microbial contaminants and physical impurities before attaching the CE-mark, which is a mandatory traditional marking for certain products sold within the European Economic Area (EEA).

Besides being applied to all kinds of fertilisers to assure the highest levels of soil protection, the new rule also sets limits for thecadmium level of phosphate fertilisers.

The limits will be tightened from 60mg/kg to 40mg/kg after three years, and to 20mg/kg after 12 years, decreasing health and environmental risks.

For the fertilising products, which are not produced or traded cross-border in large quantities, the EU is recommending optional harmonisation.

As per the recommendation, depending on the traders’ business strategy and type of product, producers can either opt for CE marking on their product, helping it to trade freely in the single market according to common European rules, or have it traded according to national standards based on mutual recognition in the single market. This guarantees the principles of better regulation and subsidiarity.

European Commission jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness vice-president Jyrki Katainen said: “Very few of the abundant bio-waste resources are transformed into valuable fertilising products.

“Our farmers are using fertilisers manufactured from imported resources or from energy-intensive processes although our industry could valorise these bio-wastes in recycled nutrients.

“This regulation will help us turn problems into opportunities for farmers and businesses.”

The commission noted that the current Fertilisers Regulation from 2003 helps free movement of traditional, non-organic fertilisers, usually extracted from mines or produced chemically, in the single market.

These fertliser production processes consume high amounts of energy and emit huge levels of CO2. The existing Fertilisers Regulation does not cover new fertilising products produced from organic materials.

Therefore, access of the organic fertilising products to the single market is reliant on mutual recognition between EU member states, and due to different national rules, this is often difficult.

The current Fertilisers Regulation also does not address environmental concerns arising from contamination by fertilisers of soil, inland waters, sea waters, and food.