One of the key objective of the REFERTIL project is to provide a strong policy support for the EU Commission in revision of the Fertiliser Regulation (Reg. EC No. 2003/2003) and possible inclusion of biochar - as safe organic fertiliser and soil additive. When biochar applied to open ecological system, there is a direct interlink to subsurface water systems, therefore qualified biochar must be applied. The aim is to ensure that the proposed biochar quality and safety criteria are fully consistent with EU-wide Directives and Regulations. The reason for the proposed stricker biochar quality and safety (limit values for toxic substances) standard is the reduction of environmental risks from heavy metal and organic compounds due to the application of biochar product in agricultural soils.

In 2016 Terra Humana Ltd. Edward Someus has been selected as a Member of the EU DG Grow-JRC STRUBIAS (struvite-biochar-ash) Expert Group, a sub-class of the Commission Working Group on fertilisers.

Refertil policy support work

The REFERTIL consortium have been reviewed the respective EU directives, regulations and also the relevant MS national legislations. Several workshop meetings have been organized with the EU Commission representatives in 2012-2015 for joint considerations and also wide range of Euroepan biochar science and technology groups have been consulted for knowledge and experience exchange in this new and complex biochar case. REFERTIL provided a strong policy support for the EU Commission in revision of the Fertiliser Regulation for inclusion of biochar - as safe organic fertiliser and soil additive:

  • Uniting all the knowledge and experience generated during the REFERTIL project time.
  • DEVELOPMENT of S&T knowlegde: REFERTIL biochar applied scientific research, industrial engineering, legal and economical aspects under market based commercial conditions.
  • Biochar legal aspect overview  and evaluation.
  • Biochar economics sustainability evaluation under market based commercial conditions.
  • Setting up quality and safety criteria for biochar (plant based, bone based, waste derived):
  • Includes mandatory elements with limit values
  • Declaration based elements for self validation
  • Includes risk assessment (soil and groundwater)
  • Development of harmonized and standardized analytical measurements for determination of the physic-chemical properties, potentially toxic element content and organic pollutants in the biochar materials.
  • Regular meeting with the Commission, public consultation with international biochar vendors and stakeholders.

Refertil harmonized and standardized biochar analytical measurements

  • To determine quality & safety performance of biochar, internationally accredited methods and standards are needed.
  • The accreditation of the analytical activities related to the REFERTIL project was an important step.
  • Supporting the legal standardization and mandatory permit process of biochar industrial production.
  • Most of the standards selected for biochar qualification were chosen from among currently valid CEN/ISO standards.
  • Biochar is a new product, for a number of parameters it was necessary to adopt soil or waste analytical methods, which were validated to assess their analytical performance.
  • The Environmental Testing Laboratory of WESSLING is the first laboratory in Europe who obtained accredited status, under Wessling-NAT-1-1398/2012 (2014.10.08) for comprehensive analyses of biochar samples.

The REFERTIL also demonstrated official and accredited biochar Authority permit cases according to the EU regulations, for large industrial pyrolysis installation, operations, manufacturing and applications for commercial purposes, such as:

  • Industrial scale pyrolysis plant installation and operation permit number: FES/01/0851-33/2015 (Issuing Authority Industrial Safety Inspection and ten other advising Authorities).
  • ABC Anima Bone bioChar product horticultural application permit number: 02.4/102-2/2015 (original biochar permit 02.5/67/7/2009 issued in 2009 after four years efficiency and safety tests and CLP upgraded in 2015 ).

Background

The EU legal situation of Fertiliser Regulation:

  1. The Fertilisers Regulation (EC No. 2003/2003) lays down rules relating to the placing on the  market  of  fertilisers,  as  well  as  the  provisions  regarding  their  labelling  and  packaging,  and reduces existing trade barriers and potential risks for public safety from the use of certain categories of fertilisers.
  2. If a product is in compliance with the Fertiliser Regulation it can be produced and sold anywhere in Europe (including Switzerland) as  so-called EC fertiliser.
  3. Only mineral fertilisers have been regulated at the EU 28 level: The  current  Fertilisers  Regulation  covers  only  a  part  of  the  inorganic  (mineral)  fertilisers  i.e.  ‘EC fertilisers’ that meet the requirements of the Regulation.
  4. The Regulation did not set rules relating to organic fertilisers and soil improver products. In current form it is not applicable for biochar products.
  5. The Fertiliser Regulation does not affect the 'national fertilisers'. Most Member States (MS) have in place national provisions (whic are quuite Member State specific) regarding the placing on the market of fertilising materials.
  6. The producers can chose between 'EC fertilisers' or 'National fertilisers'.
  7. Mutual Recognition (Reg. (EC) No 764/2008) for intracommunity movement of national registered fertilisres. Barrier for Mutual Recognition: The MS legislations are not identical.

EU harmonisation effort: The Commission intends to revise Regulation (EC) No 2003/2003 to extend its scope to other fertilisers and  fertilising  materials  including  organic  fertilisers (possible including animal bone biochar),  growing  media,  soil  improvers ( possible including compost and biochar) and  possibly biostimulants. Objectives:

  • To  harmonise  legislation  for  all  fertilising  materials  (FM)  including  inorganic  fertilisers,  organic fertilisers, growing media, soil improvers and biostimulants;
  • To guarantee the safety of fertilising materials;
  • To ensure agronomic efficacy of fertilising materials; and  
  • To reduce administrative burden.

Biochar material and the Fertiliser Regulation: Biochar is plant and/or animal bone biomass origin stabile carbon carboniferous product with large variability of composition for wide range of Authority permitted open ecological agricultural soil enhancement use and beneficial effects. The safe biochar product is equally importantly environmental, climate protection and economical sustainable. There are two main biomass based types of safe biochar, such as plant based and animal bone based.

The plant based high C content biochar is soil improver, having no direct fertilizer value, but having high water holding and nutrient retention capacity, C sequestration potential and used at high doses, such as 5000 kg/ha and in cases when justified even up to 20,000 kg/ha.

The “ABC” Animal Bone bioChar is full value recovered organic fertilizer, made of food grade category 3 bones, having low carbon content and as high as 30% P2O5 nutrient composition with plant uptake optimized slow release fertilization effect. The fully safe ABC is used at low doses, such as 200 – 600 kg/ha and in cases when justified even up to 1,000 kg/ha. The ABC is highly macroporous, which structure is also optimized for significant enhancing of soil microbiological life, having high water holding and macromolecular organic nutrient retention capacity as well.

Official document "Roadmap for the revision of the EU Fertilers Regulation" released by the Commission on October 2015 (external link to the official document) >>

" The Fertilisers Regulation revision aims at establishing a regulatory framework  enabling  production  of  fertilisers  from  recovered  bio-wastes  and  other  secondary raw materials. This would boost domestic sourcing of plant nutrients which are essential for a sustainable European agriculture, including the critical raw material phosphorus. It would also contribute to a better implementation of the waste hierarchy, by minimising landfilling or energy recovery of bio-wastes, and hence to solving related waste management problems."