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Environmental impacts and trade-offs of alternative fertilising products at global/local scale.


The scope of this topic is the assessment of environmental impacts and trade-offs of the production and application of a range of fertilising products derived from secondary raw materials which could replace nitrogen- and phosphorus-based fertilisers produced from conventional processes (including mining and fossil-based processes) in a life cycle perspective. Examples of alternative fertilising products within the scope include products made from secondary raw materials such as, for example: recycled nutrients from urban and industrial waste water and sewage sludge, organic fertilising products from bio-waste, from any biological residue or by-products, from digestate and from treated manure.

Proposals should:

  1. Collect all relevant data and figures on a range of fertilising products derived from secondary raw materials. Information should include all phases of their life cycle: production, distribution/trade, storage, application on lands and consequent transformation/diffusion into the different environments. The range of alternative fertilising products should be selected in order to cover at least one product from each main waste/residue raw material, i.e. at least one from each of: urban waste water, industrial waste water, sewage sludge, bio-waste, biological by-products, digestate and treated manure.
  2. Apply and/or improve existing methodologies to assess the environmental impacts and trade-offs of the alternative fertilising products selected at point a) on a life cycle base, building on and complementing existing assessment results published by European Commission (project SAFEMANURE[[]]). In particular, methodology and assessment should include the territorial and practical factors in terms of local vs global production and trade, local management procedures (storage, spreading on soils) also depending on specific agricultural applications and practices (e.g. agro-ecological vs traditional approach, current legislation at national level, within the consortium). Impacts and trade-offs should include categories on: climate change mitigation, including in terms of restoring the carbon sink capacity of soils, biodiversity and ecosystems protection, including soil biodiversity and below-ground ecosystems, land use and land use change, water consumption, energy use, nitrogen and phosphorus flows into the environment and any other pollutants’ emission that affect air/water/soil, including microplastics. Methodology and assessment should rely on existing procedures, e.g. Product Environmental Footprint method[[]]and other validated/certified modelling and objective techniques, experimental tests, consultation of peer-reviewed scientific literature;
  3. Relevant data may feed into the European Platform on Life Cycle Assessment[[]] if feasible;
  4. Analyse technical aspects of the environmental impacts prevention and control operations during all phases of life cycle of the selected alternative fertilising products and their effectiveness. Include preliminary assessment of costs of installation/maintenance and social benefits of such operations. Alternative fertilising products under this proposal seeking market regulatory approval, should consider relevant regulatory requirements.

In this topic the integration of the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) in research and innovation content is not a mandatory requirement.

Activities should include a thorough analysis of past research projects and studies developed under the EU funding programmes. Proposals should include a task dedicated to sharing methodologies and findings with projects funded within this topic. Proposals’ consortia should include stakeholders from the whole value chain such as producers of fertilisers and farmers, as well as scientists and experts in the analysis of environmental impacts of agricultural products.