The Policy Areas Nutri and Bioeconomy together with the Ministry of the Environment of Finland co-organized a webinar on the implementation of the Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy on Monday 22 November. The purpose of the webinar was to present some topical issues and points of view in nutrient recycling, take stock of the present situation in nutrient recycling and also to look ahead and discuss opportunities and challenges that we face in implementing the Nutrient Recycling Strategy in the Baltic Sea Region.

The webinar gathered ca. 120 participants representing national authorities, businesses, research organizations and NGOs from different countries across the Baltic Sea.

The Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy was adopted at the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting on 20 October 2021 in connection with the adoption of the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan. The adoption of the strategy represents a systemic change that poses a challenge for policy implementation and crosses the lines of government sections and involves many sectors outside government: businesses, agriculture, wastewater treatment etc.

Morning session

The morning session consisted of five presentations from experts from both the public and the private sector. The five speakers gave a broad and holistic view on both the implementation of the nutrient strategy as well as business opportunities related to it.

In her opening words, Tarja Haaranen, Director General at the Department of the Natural Environment, Ministry of the Environment of Finland, reflected on the background and the preparation of the strategy and reminded that although the main goal of the strategy is to protect waters and the Baltic Sea, the actions will also have other beneficial impacts, among them impact on climate change mitigation.

In her introduction to the Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy, Lotta Ruokanen, Professional Secretary at the HELCOM Secretariat, focused on the policy background, vision and objectives of the strategy.

Isidro Campos Rodriguez, Policy Officer, DG AGRI, gave an overview of nutrient recycling in the European Green Deal’s Farm to Fork programme, the Common Agricultural Policy and beyond, and presented some of their links to the nutrient recycling strategy. He emphasized that sustainable agriculture should move towards circular economy or “circular agronomics.” He pointed out the link between the proper treatment of sewage sludge from waste water treatment plants included in the nutrient strategy and three actions launched by the European Commission: Water Reuse Regulation, Sewage Sludge Directive, and Fertilising Products Regulation.

Ana-Lucia Crişan, Legal Officer, DG GROW, presented the EU fertilising products regulation and discussed the harmonization rules for fertilising products. She also described the quality assurance system for fertiliser manufacturers. Anders Finnson, Senior Environmental Advisor at Svenskt Vatten, focused on the experiences in nutrient recycling in the wastewater sector in Sweden. He presented the ambition to transform the current wastewater treatment system into resource recovery plants.

Dr. Christian Kabbe, Managing Director at EasyMining part of Ragn-Sells Group, focused on the business opportunities and obstacles of nutrient recovery and recycling. Some of the clear drivers, or opportunities that he mentioned were the existing quality requirements to minimize pollution and the need to reduce import dependencies. Some of the obstacles he mentioned were the discrimination of materials by origin and not by quality and the fragmentation of regulation.


Afternoon session

In the afternoon session, six experts took part in a panel discussion on the present situation in nutrient recycling and discussed the opportunities and challenges in implementing the Nutrient Recycling Strategy focusing on creating business opportunities and improving policy coherence. The panel, moderated by Lauri Larvus and Anna Kortesoja from Gaia Consulting, included representatives of national authorities, businesses and an NGO from different countries of the Baltic Sea Region: Dr. Andrea Roskosch (German Federal Environment Agency), Marja-Liisa Tapio-Biström (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland), Zigmas Medingis (Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Lithuania), Eetu Virtanen (Soilfood), Marc Buttmann (TerraNova Energy GmbH), and Gunnar Norén (Coalition Clean Baltic).

The panel noted that the main challenge in nutrient recycling is to embrace a completely new mindset and understanding of systemic change. Working better together and sharing information across different sectors is key to making this transformation happen. The involvement of farmers was considered crucial and should be strongly linked to EU policies (CAP and Farm to Fork).

For the strategy to succeed, the problem of the geographical concentration of nutrients needs to be addressed. On a national level, it should be discussed how to control nutrient surplus on the farms. There is a need for best practices that can be obtained from different countries and backgrounds. Nutrient saving practices should be implemented according to appropriate standards that support the farmer’s decision to use fertilisers.

Efficient recycling solutions and the development of a market for recycled fertilisers play an important role. Incentives and policy instruments are needed for the development and use of recycled fertilisers in order to create a competitive and profitable market for companies. Quality also plays a key role in improving the economic viability of recycled fertilisers. As one solution, an obligation to mix or use recycled phosphorus was proposed as a policy instrument.

Different approaches are needed to recycle nutrients in manure and sewage sludge. As sewage sludge is associated with more uncertainties and image issues than manure, e.g. due to organic contaminants, it is necessary to develop and implement higher processing techniques to recover phosphorus and other valuable substances as pure as possible.

Logistics play an important role in the recycling of nutrients. An optimal solution should be found between the transportation of biomass and the locations of processing and recycling facilities. Centralized processing would often be the most cost-effective treatment option, but finding the best overall solution requires a balance between different factors.

The cornerstone for the future of the market is the new EU legislation, Fertilising Products Regulation, which will create confidence and stability on the market. Another balancing factor is the increase in the price of mineral fertilisers (especially phosphorus), which will level the prices compared to recycled fertilisers. One key to making the market more lucrative is improving technology. When the quality of the products is high, the market will respond well to them.



Introduction to the Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy, Lotta Ruokanen, HELCOM Secretariatpdf Introduction to the Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy

Perspectives for nutrient recycling from the European Green Deal, Isidro Campos Rodriguez, DG AGRI, European Commission pdf Perspectives for nutrient recycling from the European Green Deal

National approaches in nutrient recycling: Nutrient recycling in the wastewater sector in Sweden Anders Finnson, Svenskt Vattenpdf Nutrient recycling in the wastewater sector in Sweden

EU fertilising products regulation and link to nutrient recycling, Ana-Lucia Crişan, DG GROW, European Commissionpdf EU fertilising products regulation and link to nutrient recycling

Challenges and opportunities for recovered nutrients in fertilising products – a market and business perspective, Christian Kabbe, EasyMining part of Ragn-Sells Grouppdf Challenges and opportunities for recovered nutrients in fertilising products