EU boost for alternative fertiliser sources

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The European Commission has released proposals for new regulations to boost the use of fertilisers based on organic and waste materials, representing the first set of measures following last year’s launch of an initiative to promote a circular economy.

The new Fertiliser Regulations introduce a set of rules that allow products based on organic and waste materials to receive Europe-wide certification. The regulations also set rules covering the allowed content of pollutants such as cadmium, which can impact the aquatic environment.

The intention is that the new regulations will support the growth of the market for products based on organic and waste materials. The previous regulations, dating from 2003, did not include these sources, meaning products derived from them were subject to country by country approvals. The new regulations therefore create a level playing field for all fertilisers according to a new list of sources set out in the regulations.

Unsustainable reliance on inorganic phosphates is one of the issues that a move to a circular economy seeks to address. In introducting the new regulations, the European Commission acknowledged that sewage sludge has a potentially important role to play in this. However, the new regulation excludes products based on sewage sludge from being certified under the regulation.

The pollutant cadmium is targeted by measures in the regulations. Organo-mineral and inorganic macronutrient phosphate fertilisers with a total phosphate content of 5% or more phosphorus pentoxide equivalent have to comply with limits that become more stringent with time in order to achieve certification under the regulations: initially 60 mg/kg phosphorus pentoxide; 40 mg/kg phosphorus pentoxide three years after the introduction of the regulation; and 20 mg/kg phosphorus pentoxide 12 years after its introduction.

‘Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down rules on the making available on the market of CE marked fertilising products and amending Regulations (EC) No 1069/2009 and (EC) No 1107/2009’ (COM(2016) 157, 17 March 2016)


  • Europe, resource recovery, nutrients