Member States should be encouraged to reward the beneficial use of compost and digestate
The Commission started the impact assessment (IA) that will accompany the legislative proposal in 2023. The Commission launched a public consultation on the call for evidence for an IA on the expected Soil Health Law on 16 February 2022. ECN answer to the consultation is available here.
ECN is promoting soil health since 2018 when it started the international campaign initiative S.O.S. Save Organics in Soil, with the Italian Composting Association (CIC). ECN reiterates its support for establishing EU Common indicators and certification for soil health.
Compost and digestate are two organic recycled materials that are used as organic fertilizers and soil improvers in agriculture and horticulture, or as peat replacements in the growing media production. In 2017, 15.8 Mt of C&D from bio-waste (BW) recycling were manufactured in 18 countries. As Member States must introduce bio-waste separate collection at the latest on 31st December 2023, compost and digestate figures are set to grow.
Providing stable organic carbon with compost and digestate helps to maintain and replenish the content of soil organic matter. This recycled organic matter delivers a substrate for a diverse range of micro-organisms that form an essential part of a healthy soil ecosystem.
Degraded Soil that is low in organic matter is less productive, retains less water and stores less carbon. Soils with low levels of organic matter can be improved by regular applications of quality compost and digestate. More available quality compost and digestate and their correct use in agriculture will reduce the need for mineral nutrients for basic fertilization; considering the specific soil and climate conditions and the nutrient efficiency, nutrient losses can be reduced.
The European Commission should acknowledge the important climate and environmental benefits that regular applications of quality compost and digestate generate. We propose that the Soil Health Law (and therefore the CAP) should include a mechanism to encourage Member States to reward the use of compost and digestate and close the biological cycle in accordance with circular economy principles.
ECN position paper on Soil Organic Matter
Last year, ECN’s task group ‘Soil & Organic Matter’ laid down policy recommendations in its position paper ‘Organic matter for the preservation of soil health and fertility’. In particular, the ECN recommends that any policy protecting and improving soil and biodiversity should forecast long term programs coupled with appropriate rewards and incentive instruments. The Soil Strategy (and therefore the CAP) should include a mechanism to encourage Member States to reward the use of compost and digestate and close the biological cycle in accordance with circular economy principles. Moreover, ECN recommends that incentives should include appropriate training to farmers on the long-term benefits of soil health and the practical ways of assessing its quality.