Circular economy through nutrient recycling at EUSBSR Forum 2019 in Gdańsk
The 10th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region took place on 12–13 June 2019 in Gdańsk, Poland, with more than 700 participants. The event’s overarching theme was circular economy, taking into consideration demographic situation in the region, finding synergies with business, and supporting environmental work.
Networking for knowledge exchange
BSR WATER platform was represented at the event in several occasions. Over the course of the Networking village, the platform was hosted by the stand of Policy Area ‘Nutri’ to demonstrate successful cooperation in smart water management through both actions and activities of the platform and its contributing projects. Several running projects under the BSR WATER umbrella were highlighted at the event: BEST and IWAMA solutions for smart wastewater management got recognition during networking, and RBR project was showcased at the seminar Industrial symbiosis as a key to circular economy in the Baltic Sea Region.
The PA Nutri stand was extremely popular among the participants: water-related challenges are very common in the region, and what the Baltic Sea Region needs is smart solutions – precisely what BSR WATER aims for with developing regional policy recommendations and promoting online platform Baltic Smart Water Hub for exchanging water expertise.
Progress with policies on nutrient recycling
BSR WATER also supported one of the parallel seminars: Safe nutrient recycling for cleaner Baltic Sea launched by Policy Areas 'Nutri' and 'Hazards' together with HELCOM Secretariat. The seminar allowed in-depth discussions on development of the Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy that is now being under preparation – continuing with the preliminary draft prepared during the previous meeting organized in March at the Baltic Sea Day in St. Petersburg. The outlined draft objectives of the Strategy for now are the following:
- Showcasing BSR as a model area for nutrient recycling
- Reducing environmental impacts
- Ensuring safe nutrient recycling
- Improving policy coherence
- Creating business opportunities
- Promoting knowledge exchange and awareness raising
Based on these, the seminar hosted a panel discussion among representatives of different sectors: water company, fertilizers' producer, university, national ministry and the EU Commission. The discussion resulted in not only listed challenges to the process and value of nutrient recycling, but also emphasized long-term benefits for the companies to engage in nutrient recovery. As an example of the latter, Marek Swinarski, Chief Process Engineer at Gdansk Water Utility shared several practical points, among them: reducing nitrogen load on treatment processes, possibility to lower operational costs and reduction of costs on upgrading wastewater treatment plants.
The panel discussion stressed that the major concern about the nutrient recycling process is the unavailability of data to ensure the safety of the recovered material, and different certification systems f.ex. when concerning sludge handling. These currently result in low interest in purchasing recovered nutrients among the EU Member States. However, Johanna Bernsel, Deputy Head of Unit, DG GROW, emphasized that a new EU regulation is coming in force that focuses on promoting increased use of recycled nutrients aiding the development of the circular economy. The new regulation supports free market access for the fertilizing products with CE marking. Such regulation should increase the value of the recycled nutrients making their recovery beneficial and therefore applied by the companies.
With the new insights into the nutrient recycling issues, the development of the Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy will continue.