Within Europe, sustainable phosphorus management has been addressed not homogeneously. Regarding the institutionalization of nutrient management, the Netherlands can be seen as a frontrunner with the signing of this value chain agreement. The Netherlands offers to share the lessons learned from this innovative approach to speed up the transition towards sustainable nutrient management and strengthen the governance in this field with (stakeholders from) countries within as well as outside the European Union.
The EU imports a lot of phosphorus raw materials. The United States, Russia and China have closed their borders for export of phosphorus rock because it is a strategic resource for them. Phosphorus causes also environmental problems, not only by mining processes, but also because we don’t use phosphorus in a sustainable way: it pollutes water, it causes problems in water treatment plants, and we produce a lot of organic waste with each other. A simple thought comes up; why not make a market for secondary (recycled) phosphates? When we recycle, we are less dependent on imports, when we sell (sometimes export) recycled phosphorus we can lower the costs of waste treatment, and the future of phosphorus prices will proof to go up because of higher world demands.
In order to be able to establish a sustainable market for recycled phosphate, support within the European Union is essential. Not only from the perspective of legislation, but also recycled phosphates have to be traded within the EU as simple as possible. Therefore, a sustainable market for recycled phosphates can only be created if seen from – at least – a European perspective. Dutch organizations (farmers, waste processors, water boards, food industry, phosphate producers etc.) need to team up with partners throughout the European Union to build successful business cases. Therefore, a range of activities is planned on a European level as part of the execution of the Value Chain Agreement as outlined in the above. Examples of which are:
1.Work together on an inclusive strategy towards creating the right conditions for sustainable phosphorus use within the European Union;
2.Learn from each other it would be useful to establish a European network of businesses, knowledge institutes, governmental bodies and NGO’s interested in creating a sustainable market for recycled phosphate (and in a broader sense: more efficient use);
3.It would help if European legislation is adapted, within the framework of a Resource Efficient Europe, in such a way that non-environmental barriers for phosphate recycling (and broader: sustainable phosphate use) are eliminated and innovations stimulated. As a means to realize the above, the Dutch Nutrient Platform and the European Commission plan to organize a large European Conference on Sustainable Phosphate Use early 2013.
The Nutrient Platform intents to organize a European Conference on Sustainable Phosphorus Use in close cooperation with relevant European Institutions (Commission, Parliament, etc.) and other European Member States, starting with frontrunners (businesses, governments, knowledge institutes and NGO’s) in these issues. Frontrunners, of which we are already aware that they are keen on creating the right enabling environment for sustainable phosphorus use. But also stakeholders who want to learn from others and are willing to make steps in closing the phosphate loop.