"The new rules include reasonable limits for contaminants and, finally, access to the market for all those products that were excluded before."
Currently, only 5% of waste organic material in the EU is recycled and used as fertiliser. However, this is set to change after EU Council and Parliament negotiators agreed new rules to make it easier for producers to sell bio-based fertilisers across the bloc. Approving the new rules last week, EU lawmakers said they would provide more choice for farmers, and reduce health and environmental risks for consumers.
Ultimately, the new law aims to ease access to the EU single market for fertilisers made from organic or recycled materials and set limits for cadmium.
Internal Market Committee rapporteur, Mihai Ţurcanu (EPP, RO) (@turcanu2014), said lawmakers had reached a “very good agreement” after “long negotiations, technical meetings and a huge amount of work that has been done with four Presidencies of the Council in the past two years”.
Environment Committee rapporteur, Elisabetta Gardini (EPP,IT) (@EGardini), added that the results would be great for SMEs because "the new rules include reasonable limits for contaminants and, finally, access to the market for all those products that were excluded before”.
She explained: “A single, harmonised limit is finally in place at European level for all contaminants, especially for cadmium, which is the one that most worries the member states. Since this is very sensitive, the cadmium limit established by the regulation can be reviewed after seven years from its entry into force.”
The agreed text introduces limits for heavy metals, such as cadmium, in phosphate fertilisers to reduce health and environmental risks. The limits for cadmium content in “CE marked” phosphate fertilisers will be 60 mg/kg as from the date of application of the regulation (i.e. three years after its entry into force).
A review clause requires the European Commission to review the limit values, with a view to assessing the feasibility of reducing them, four years after the date of application of the new rules.
Existing EU rules on fertilisers cover mainly conventional fertilisers, typically extracted from mines or produced chemically, with high energy-consumption and CO2 production. Diverging national rules make it difficult for producers of organic fertilisers to sell and use them across the EU single market.
The new legislation, provisionally agreed on 20 November:
promotes increased use of recycled materials for producing fertilisers, thus helping to develop the circular economy, while reducing dependence on imported nutrients;
eases market access for innovative, organic fertilisers, which would give farmers and consumers a wider choice and promote green innovation; and
establishes EU-wide quality, safety and environmental criteria for “EU” fertilisers (i.e. those which can be traded in the whole EU single market).
The provisional agreement still needs to be confirmed by the EU member states’ ambassadors (Coreper) and by the European Parliament’s Internal Market Committee. The draft regulation will then be put to a vote by the full Parliament in an upcoming plenary session and formally approved by the EU Council of Ministers.
Currently, only 5% of waste organic material is recycled and used as fertilisers, according to the EU Council and Parliament. According to estimates, if more biowaste was recycled, it could replace up to 30% of non-organic fertilisers.
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.
Nearly half of the fertilisers on the EU market are not covered by the existing legislation. The new one, which will replace the current 2003 Fertilisers Regulation, includes all types of fertilisers (mineral, organic, soil improvers, growing matters, etc.).
Separately, the EU executive approved its 2050 climate change strategy today. The bloc is aiming for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The 2050 strategy sets out eight scenarios for the bloc’s 28 nations to cut emissions in line with the Paris Agreement - two of which chart of a course for the Europe to become climate neutral.
Vice-President responsible for the Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič said: "We cannot safely live on a planet with the climate that is out of control. But that does not mean that to reduce emissions, we should sacrifice the livelihoods of Europeans.
He added: "Over the last years, we have shown how to reduce emissions, while creating prosperity, high-quality local jobs, and improving people’s quality of life. Europe will inevitably continue to transform. Our strategy now shows that by 2050, it is realistic to make Europe both climate neutral and prosperous, while leaving no European and no region behind.”