Boosting the use of organic and safer fertilisers in the EU
- Increase the use of recycled materials to produce fertilisers and reduce waste
- limits for contaminants to protect health and the environment
- farmers and consumers get a broader choice
Innovative fertilisers produced from organic or recycled materials could be sold more easily across the EU under draft rules approved by Parliament on Tuesday.
Existing EU rules on fertilisers cover mainly conventional fertilisers, typically extracted from mines or produced chemically, which are often both energy-consuming and CO2-intensive. Diverging national rules make it difficult for producers of organic fertilisers to sell and use them across the EU single market.
The new draft rules would:
- promote use of recycled materials for producing fertilisers, thus helping to develop the circular economy, while reducing dependence on imported nutrients from countries outside the EU,
- ease market access for innovative, organic fertilisers, which would give farmers and consumers a broader choice and promote green innovation,
- establish EU-wide quality, safety and environmental criteria for “CE marked” fertilisers (i.e. those which can be traded on the whole EU single market),
- provide for clearer labelling requirements to inform farmers, for instance on nutrient content,
- keep an option for producers not willing to sell their products across the EU market to comply with national rules instead (member states would remain free to allow fertilisers not complying with the new EU-wide requirements onto their national markets).
Cadmium, a heavy metal contained in mineral phosphate fertilisers, can potentially pose a risk to human and animal health and the environment as it accumulates in the environment and enters the food chain. The cadmium limits would be decreased from 60 mg/kg to 40 mg/kg after six years (instead of three proposed by the Commission) and to 20 mg/kg after sixteen years (instead of twelve), MEPs propose, in order to allow producers to adapt to these requirements.
A review clause introduced by Parliament requires the Commission to assess how restrictions on levels of contaminants are working, as well as the developments in decadmiation technologies, 42 months after the date of application of this regulation. The Commission would also have to assess, within the same period, the impact on trade in raw material sourcing, including the availability of phosphate rock, and how the new rules impact the fertilising products market.
Mihai Ţurcanu (EPP, RO), rapporteur, said: “This proposal is part of the circular economy package, expanding the range of fertilisers which can be obtained from secondary products. It will also help to improve labelling and to scale back the administrative burden for producers and for farmers. We want to have safer products and to restrict the amount of heavy metals found in our fertilisers. Our duty is to provide products for our citizens which are safe and at an affordable price”.
The mandate to start negotiations with Council was approved by 343 votes to 252, with 59 abstentions. The file was sent back to the Internal Market Committee for inter-institutional negotiations. Council has yet to agree on its position.
Currently, only 5% of waste organic material is recycled and used as a fertiliser, but recycled bio-waste could substitute up to 30% of mineral fertilisers. The EU imports more than 6 million tonnes of phosphate rock a year, but it could recover up to 2 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 regulation.
The main fertiliser constituent is phosphate rock, which has been identified by the Commission as a critical raw material. For phosphate fertilisers, the EU is currently highly dependent on imports of phosphate rock mined outside of the EU (more than 90% of the phosphate fertilisers used in the EU are imported, mainly from Morocco, Tunisia and Russia).