Presently, food production relies on the use of artificial fertilisers, which are produced by quarrying the limited phosphorous reserves or generating nitrogen by means of energy-intensive methods. The use of chemical fertilisers also has adverse environmental impacts, such as eutrophication of water bodies. Still, fertilisation and soil improvement are necessary for plant growth, and for that reason new cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives need to be found to ensure growth. There are already some recycled nutrient products on the market, but challenges related to safety of use have limited their sale and awareness of the products.
The objective of the LARA high-quality fertiliser project (link in Finnish) by Finnish Association for Biological Waste Treatment, Finnish Water Utilities Association and Finnish Biogas Association, launched in 2018, is to create a quality system and quality label for fertiliser products that have been processed from recycled materials in biogas and composting plants or other similar processing plants. The quality system under development will increase the use of recycled nutrients, taking advantage of the waste streams from other sectors, and reduce the eutrophication of water bodies. The intention is to launch the first products to comply with the new quality system onto the market at the beginning of 2020.
The quality system for recycled nutrient products will not only reduce the use of artificial fertilisers, thus promoting nutrient cycling, but it will also utilise waste streams from other sectors. Furthermore, the use of organic fertiliser products containing recycled nutrients can be used for improving the biological activity and the growth of the humus content of soil, which also reduces the likelihood of soil erosion.