Around 40% of the EU-27's land area is farmed, highlighting the importance of farming for the EU's natural environment. The links between the natural environment and farming practice are complex.
Intensive farming practice and human activities have disturbed the natural cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus. It is estimated that human activity has doubled the global amount of reactive Nitrogen in circulation; while tripled the amount of phosphorus since the industrial revolution.
Industrial agriculture relies on the continuous input of mined and non renewable Phosphorus and energy-intensive Nitrogen supply. Nitrogenous fertilizers require large amounts of energy and ultimately cause greenhouse gas emissions.The nitrogen fertilizer industry is the EU's biggest single industrial user of natural gas. Natural gas is an essential raw matterial for fertiliser production as well as providing the energy to drive the production process. It is represents 60-80% of its total production costs.
Reserves of the phosphate rock PR used to make such fertilizers are finite, and concerns have been raised that they are in danger of exhaustion. It has been argued, for example, that data from the US Geological Survey point to the available low Cadmium/Uranium content PR supplies peaking in as little as 25 years time. Because there is no substitute for phosphate in agriculture, this might present an urgent and substantial problem.
The food industrial system today is primarily linear, with “Take-Make-Waste” processes and costly/polluting long distance transport systems, which linear system is highly inefficient and is not sustainable any-more. The linear system is not only inefficient and costly, but these linear outputs products often contain persistent or toxic materials that negatively impact the environment, and resulting high costs for post life management.
There is a strong need for increased sustainability and closing the nutrient loop in agriculture with the creation of a virtuous cycle between urban and rural areas. In this context, reducing the use of mineral fertilisers and chemicals in agriculture are key priority objectives that can be achieved by recycling and reusing of treated organic waste as compost and biochar products.
THE PURPOSE OF THE PROJECT
REFERTIL has the mission to contribute to the transformation of urban organic waste, food industrial by-products and farm organic residues from a costly disposal process into an income generating activity. This includes an EU-27 standardised, advanced, and comprehensive bio-waste treatment and nutrient recovery process towards zero emission performance. The improved output products will be safe, economical and standardised compost and biochar products containing phosphorous and nitrogen that can be economically and beneficially used by farmers. As a result, both food and environmental safety is improved, while a new economy is generated.
The targeted high quality output products aiming to reduce mineral fertilisers and intensive chemicals use in agriculture; enhancing the environmental, ecological and economical sustainability of food crop production; reducing the negative footprint of the cities and contributing to climate change mitigation. The output products are targeted to develop in a standardized way to meet all industrial, agricultural and environmental norms and standards in European dimension.
The expected results of the 4 years REFERTIL project is the development an EU27 standardized advanced and comprehensive bio-waste treatment and nutrient recovery process with zero emission performance, resulting a
- virtuous nutrient cycle, and
- ecological and
- EU27 standardized compost and bio-char combined natural fertilizers and soil amendment agricultural products.