BSAG: Reformed EU legislation opens up business opportunities for nutrient recovery

The Baltic Sea Action Group works hard in both the business world and in the political arena to save the Baltic Sea. One of the outcomes of these efforts is the upcoming legislative reform that makes nutrient recovery and the manufacture of recycled fertilizers easier.

The Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) is an independent non-profit foundation established in 2008 in Finland.

“BSAG works for the Baltic Sea. We want to make every effort to save it,” says Program Director Mathias Bergman.

The most severe threats to the Baltic Sea are eutrophication and hazardous substances.

Baltic Sea greatly affected by primary food production

Currently, cattle farming and crop production release large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus into the environment. Both of these nutrients play an important role in plant growth, but at excessive levels, they worsen air quality and lead to the eutrophication of water bodies.

“I would single out primary food production as the most important development area. It takes place in the soil, using high volumes of nutrients,” Bergman says.

“Massive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus are being released into nature. To prevent eutrophication, the leakage points in the food chain need to be plugged and the valuable nutrients need to be cycled back into primary production,” Bergman says.

The protection of the Baltic Sea largely depends on how and under what circumstances food is produced. Soil condition and fertilisation also play a big role. BSAG’s long-term target is for about 80% of Finnish acreage to be tied to the goals of the change programmes championed by the foundation.

Towards circular economy through nutrient recovery

According to BSAG, taking the right agricultural measures can have a dramatic impact on the state of the seas and the climate.

“We believe that we as society must completely change the way we think about the use of nitrogen and phosphorus so as to prevent them from ending up in water bodies. Excess nutrients should be recovered and the soil structure must be restored,” Bergman stresses.

The need for change concerns not only Finland but all societies worldwide. Systematic change also requires political engagement.

“In addition to Finland, we do a lot of work in Russia, Sweden and elsewhere in Europe. The European Union is naturally an important channel for us,” Bergman points out.

Legislative reform to make manufacture of recycled fertilizers easier

The new EU legislation that will enter into force next year, thanks, among other things, to BSAG’s long-term engagement efforts, will determine how and from what kind of raw materials recycled fertilizers can be manufactured.

This will open up new markets for fertilizers in Europe. Many companies are able to produce recycled fertilizers from the waste arising from their production process.

“This used to be a grey area. The legislative reform will finally open up Europe’s internal market to recycled fertilizer products, creating a whole host of business opportunities for nutrient reuse,” Bergman says.

Work aimed at creating new business

During its ten years of operations, BSAG has been systematically building the Nutrient Recovery business ecosystem (RaKi) funded by Tekes. Its objective is to enable a breakthrough in nutrient recycling in Finland and create new business based on solutions to enhance nutrient cycling. To bring about change on a large scale, it is important that companies also want to change their ways of operating.

“We want to turn protecting nature and the Baltic Sea into profitable and attractive business for companies by changing the ground rules and the legislation. But changes cannot be imposed by force,” says Bergman.

“During the past year, for example, we collaborated actively with 40 companies. Our goal is to improve the participating companies’ understanding of how they can make a difference through their own choices.”

In the beginning of 2018, the Nutrient Recovery ecosystem included more than 70 players: companies, municipalities and research organisations. The ecosystem has led to the creation of many kinds of businesses, projects and innovations that enhance the recycling of nutrients.

“Over the past 3–4 years, we have been focusing on getting commitments from companies with major significance in Finnish society. We have been very successful in this: large players from the food industry and agriculture, for example, have joined us in a bid to improve their operations in the best interests of the environment and the Baltic Sea,” says a pleased Bergman.


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