ECN stresses the need to bolster circularity of critical raw materials in the agri-food sector

The EU Commission opened a public consultation to hear stakeholders’ views on the recently announced European Critical Raw Materials Act initiative. The initiative aims at increasing and diversifying EU critical raw materials (CRM) supply, while also strengthening circularity and support research and innovation. This urgency comes at a time of geopolitical unrest and growing global demand for these materials which call for increased efforts from the EU, which will also address risk and capacity management and adverse social and environmental impacts.
Against this background, ECN shared its stance on the initiative, highlighting the role that bio-waste derived materials have in the recycling of nutrients, particularly phosphorus which is included as a CRM in the fourth and updated version of the list published in 2020 and is depleted at alarming rate worldwide. The use of compost and digestate would improve circularity by closing the nutrient cycle, which in turn would reduce the EU dependency on unstable and unsustainable supply chains for Nitrogen and Phosphorus. Moreover, while not being listed as CRM, ECN emphasised the crucial role that peat plays for climate mitigation, and advocated for the use of organic soils improvers as environmentally-friendly alternatives to peat, whose extraction is contributing massively to climate change. Finally, we call on the Commission for more policy coherence and the incentivisation of CRM recovery from the different waste streams, prioritizing bio-waste recycling for nutrient and organic matter recovery.
The initiative will be open for feedbacks until November 25th, and we strongly recommend you to contribute separately with your comments by that date.
Please find ECN’s feedback on the Critical Raw material Act here.