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UN World Water Day 2017: The value of waste water in nutrient recovery

Brussels, 20 March 2017: The United Nations’ World Water Day (22 March) should make us all aware of the need to protect and wisely use our water resources. This year’s theme is – for the first time – ‘waste water’. Wastewater is a substantial source of nutrients. The EU recognised the significant potential of nutrient recovery by suggesting a revised Fertiliser Regulation in the 2015 Circular Economy Package.

Regrettably, the European Commission does not include sewage sludge as a source of recyclable nutrients in the proposed revision of the Fertiliser Regulation. Vital nutrients such as phosphorus can be recovered from sludge ashes or as struvite and used in agriculture.

EurEau President, Bruno Tisserand stated that: “It is important that the Fertiliser Regulation remains adaptable to allow for the inclusion of struvite and ash-based products in the future.”

“Many wastewater treatment plants have invested in nutrient recovery and recovered nutrients meet all requirements for mineral fertilizers. There is no valid reason to ban these products from accessing the Single Market” he added.

More than 90% of the phosphate fertilisers used in the EU are imported. EurEau estimates that the recovered phosphorus from sewage sludge could reduce imports by up to 10%. Doing so will require clarifying the definition of mineral fertilisers to include recovered nutrients, which means accepting some organic carbon.

“The amendments proposed by rapporteur Jan Huitema, MEP (ALDE – AGRI) go in the right direction to keeping sludge as a component in the future. We hope they will be widely supported” Tisserand concluded.

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