Interview with Fernando Feliu: the circular economy challenge

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empresa de fertilizantes

PLYMAG executive director, Fernando Feliu, is not only the technical manager of our agronutrient company, but he has also taken part of his time to contribute altruistically in the achievement of effective development in the agricultural sector, as well as in its expansion Therefore, until 2012, he was the president of AEFA, and remains today as coordinator of the national fertilizers commission and EC.

Within this framework, Europe 2020 strategy comes into play, where a series of guidelines are set to achieve sustainable, intelligent and inclusive growth, highlighting resources efficient use. Thus, the circular economy appears as the main tool, understood as a way of keeping materials and resources in the economy for as long as possible and minimizing waste generation.

This way of understanding the economy is not an unknown concept for companies that are part of AEFA. Fernando Feliu explains this in this interview, where his relationship with the agronutrient sector is analyzed.

  1. The Circular Economy is a concept in vogue, what does it consist of?

The circular economy implies a change at production model, going from a linear one in which resources are taken, manufactured with them until they are transformed into products and waste and waste are thrown, to a circular one based on products and materials reuse. This means extending their useful life, maintaining their value as long as possible.

As an example, grocery bags, which for years have spent a minimum price per piece order they were re-used, in addition to supporting waste management. This is just an example, but it marks an EU project that affects all sectors, including fertilizer.

  1. What are the expected benefits?

There are numerous benefits, but in its general sense, it will mean an improvement in life quality. This is due to job creation perspective, innovation momentum, durable products emergence and people and environment protection.

  1. ¿ How does this affect agriculture?

The are so many aspects to consider within agricultural sector that are affected by this cultural change. Among them, there is everything related to plastic, waste transport waste between member states, revision in organic fertilizers regulations, and water reuse.

In all this, the need to define what is considered as waste or not stands out. On the other hand, critical raw materials can also be considered. This is a key point considering its economic importance within the EU. For example, natural phosphates are not found in Europe while they are the basis of many fertilizers, so they have to be imported. However, large phosphorus amounts are found in sewage sludge that could cover part of these needs, while they are not accepted for fertilizers so far.

  1. ¿Y en cuanto al sector de los fertilizantes? ¿Cómo le repercute?

At this point it is necessary to emphasize that the vast products majority that are used come from by-products of agriculture, industry or livestock. In this regard, the EU facilitates the use of these as fertilizers, leaving aside barriers to transport between countries.

As regards current regulations, until this year, regulation 1069/2009 on animal origin products, uses circular economy as a base. The problem was that about half of fertilizers that were commercialized did not enter into the 2003/200 regulation, so they could not be commercialized normally and were not recognized among countries due to national laws diversity in each country.

However, in March 2019, a new legislation of the Parliament and the European Council has entered the scene. This, within its framework, modifies regulations 1069/2009 on animal origin products, 1107/2009 on phytosanitary products, as well as eliminating Regulation 2003/2003 on fertilizers.

This new regulation aims to promote greater use of recycled nutrients, trying to avoid reliance on other countries to supply us and thus strengthening the circular economy.

  1. ¿ When is this new regulation scheduled to take effect?

While the first text was approved on March 27, 2019, having been forwarded to the European Commission, the Council and the various national parliaments, it is not expected to enter into force until 2020.

  1. Will AEFA and the sector as a whole be affected by the new regulation?

It is important to emphasize that, for AEFA companies, this new approach is not so much a novelty, since waste reuse was already part of their practices. In addition, torganic farming needs have brought new demands for these companies, which have had to deal with the regulation and control that surround it.

For example, vinasses use, organic amendments or compost, is already familiar to these companies, facing the lack of matter organized in the soil of many Spanish areas.

  1. ¿ Are there any changes planned in terms of regulation and control?

Indeed, this new regulation and the circular economy framework highlights the need for changes in business processes, so that from AEFA contributions are made that help manufacturers in their implementation without incurring large unnecessary burdens.

However, this does not mean that there are no difficulties, but it takes time to adapt. Thus, the figure of the waste manager for the manipulation of by-products already valued is an aspect to take into account. It does not seem consistent that, in the case of products accepted as fertilizers by law, they must be considered waste for transport to agronutrient production factories and, therefore, there is a need to be authorized as a waste manager.

  1. What aspects directly affect the industrial sector?

The waste management practices improvement and resources efficient use during production process itseld would be the main focus affected.

In this context, reporting on best available techniques, as well as rules relating to products, would be vital to the industry. These should affect every link in the value chain without neglecting waste management.

Specifically, the European Commission emphasizes the latter, establishing two main aspects to consider. On the one hand, the criterion for determining waste status where permitted recycled materials are not classified as waste while a series of common requirements across the EU are met. On the other hand, measures to promote the conversion of waste into secondary raw materials. However, many obstacles have to be faced to make its implementation posible.

  1. In the case of such ambitious goals, how will they be achieved?

As we discussed at the beginning, it is a major challenge because it affects large economic areas, with different bid. The proposed European Commission measures mainly concern the production process, primary materials supply, products repair, waste management and the end of planned obsolence.

Bearing in mind that waste management is essential for change, measures that encourage innovation and investment have to be taken. This is where, private investment, food waste, as well as construction and demolition, or how to deal with it all in a horizontal way comes into play.

Do you have any doubt? Contact us!

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Plymag SL ha participado en la Misión Comercial a Argentina y Paraguay de 2018 y ha contado con el apoyo de ICEX, así como con la cofinanciación de Fondos Europeos FEDER, habiendo contribuido según la medida de los mismos, al crecimiento económico de esta empresa, su región y de España en su conjunto

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