The REFERTIL project provides continuous policy support works for the European Commission (DG Industry and Enterprise and other DGs) related to the revision of the Fertiliser Regulation (Reg. (EC) No 2003/2003), and the possible regulation inclusion of compost and biochar, such as organic P fertilizer (ABC) and soil additive (PBC).

When biochar is irrevocable applied to open and complex soil ecological system, there is also a direct interlink to subsurface water systems, therefore only qualified and safe 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 for long term.

The reason for the proposed stricter biochar quality and safety (limit values for toxic substances) standard is the reduction of environmental risks from potential toxic elements and organic compounds for application of safe biochar product in conservation agriculture. The REFERTIL consortium has 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 2012-2014 for joint considerations. Furthermore, wide range of European and global biochar S&T groups have been consulted for knowledge and experience exchange in this new and complex biochar case. Detailed policy support report submitted to the Commission on December 20, 2013.

Rationale for limit values and quality criteria of the safe biochar products:

  1. SAFETY: There should be no overall adverse environmental, ecological and human health impact from the use of biochar products in the open soil environment. The limit values set for PAHs, potential toxic elements and pollutants with biochar quality criteria should promote the production of higher quality and safe biochar products under market based economical conditions in conservation agriculture.
  2. MARKET REGULATION: The limits and biochar quality standards should exclude the poor quality carbon products from the fertiliser and soil improver market, those are usually missing the environmental and human health measures during its obsolete charcoal production schedules. Biochar products made from biomass by-products and regulated under mandatory EU Regulations are proposed to be mutually MS recognized products. Biochar made from waste material streams under Waste Framework Directive/End-of-Waste criteria, is proposed to be additionary law harmonized by the Member States as well.
  3. AUTHORITY CONTROL: beyond the availability of the Authority permits for production and use of biochar over one ton per year production capacity (REACH), the Authority permit, control and continuous follow up are important elements. By selection of key performance indicators full and transparent up to date information on biochar production and product quality required, such as
    1. Nutrient content with economical value, application  indicator.
    2. PAHs: Target pollutants. Product and environmental quality key indicator.
    3. Potential toxic elements: target pollutants and key indicators.
    4. PCB7: Contamination indicator also for PCDD/F.
  4. BIOCHAR PRODUCTION: The Refertil ABC/PBC product quality criteria, application and follow up of the new EU/MS industrial, agricultural and environmental regulations encourage the best practice of biochar production and supply of safe biochar. The Refertil ABC/PBC criteria also providing a legal, technical, economical and market platform for sustainable biochar business operations, including an important legal element to support the users and consumers interest, such as producer’s biochar product responsibility, insurance and guarantee, same way as for any other commercial products.
  5. ECONOMY: REFERTIL provides rational, realistic and commercial market demanded economical scenario for all biochar stakeholders from sustainable feed material supply, through production and conservation agricultural safe application, while equally importantly the environment, the climate protection and social aspects are also on the win side with equal importance.