Organic fertilisers in Europe’s Circular Economy

The European Commission is about to publish a legislative proposal to recognise digestate and compost as fertilisers under EU law.

For the moment only mineral fertilisers are recognised under EU law under the Fertilisers Regulation. This means that mineral fertilisers can be traded unhindered across the EU market, something that it is not possible for organic fertilisers which are subject to diverging legislation at national level. The current revision of the existing EU legislation on fertilisers aims to create a level playing field between the two sectors by including digestate and compost and therefore opening the possibility to export these goods freely across the EU for the first time. This has the potential to create economies of scale and boost nutrient recycling, in line with the EU’s Circular Economy strategy. While this legislation opens the door to intra-EU trade, this regime would run in parallel to existing national legislation on organic fertilisers, offering the possibility to producers to comply with national rules if the product is intended for use within the country’s borders.

The proposal is expected to be formally published by the European Commission at the end of March. Once out, it will be considered and may be amended by the European Parliament and the Council. A compromise followed by the adoption of this revision can be expected by the end of 2016 or early 2017.

In addition to this revision, the European Commission is also working on two other initiatives related to fertilisers:

  • work with the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) to develop voluntary European standards for organic fertilisers, as well as for other innovative products where standards are missing;
  • cooperate with the Joint Research Centre (scientific branch of the European Commission) to include in within the Fertilisers Regulation other nutrient recyclates besides compost and digestate, in particular: biochar, struvite and ashes.