Recycling and Waste

One of the objectives of Fertilizers Europe Product Stewardship Program is to minimize safety issues and environmental impacts from wastes and non-conforming materials. This involves the re-use, recycling and proper disposal of solid and liquid wastes and packaging materials, and the correct treatment of off-spec and refused products. Member companies are expected to:

  • Establish the SHE-risks associated with waste materials and examine the suitability for recycling and reuse. Typical waste materials from a fertilizer production site are listed below. Many of the same materials can be found as waste in the supply chain and at users’ locations.

    • Catalysts

      • Catalysts containing chromium, nickel, iron, copper, and mineral/ceramic support materials (ammonia production)
      • Platinum/rhodium catalysts (nitric acid production)
      • Vanadium catalysts (sulphuric acid production)
      • For environmental and cost reasons these catalysts are returned to the catalyst producers for rework or handled as dangerous waste.

    • Resins

      • Resins from boiler feed water treatment (ammonia production). These resins are returned to the resin producer.
      • Water treatment resins (nitric acid production). These resins are regenerated/recycled.

    • Products
      Fertilizers are derived from naturally occurring materials, such as nitrogen (from air), and rock phosphates (from mining operations) and are intended for feeding crops. In modern agriculture fertilizers are used in an efficient way with no or little left-over wastes. Any left-over material should be returned to the supplier and/or disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. Contaminated material must be handled safely.
    • Packaging materials/pallets
      At manufacturing plants and distribution warehouses: Recycling to waste handlers.
      At customers’ locations: Provide advice on national schemes for recycling.
    • Lubricating Oil
      Periodic replacement is needed of the lubrication oil in rotating machines such as compressors, turbines and pumps. Used oils should be returned to recycling operators.
    • Gypsum
      Gypsum from phosphoric acid production should be disposed of as agreed with local authorities. In new plants the gypsum should be disposed of to land. The system should be designed to prevent any contaminated water from reaching the surrounding groundwater system.
    • Waste water
      Waste water is recycled or treated in a physical-chemical waste water treatment unit or biological waste water treatment unit.
    • Heavy metals in fertilizers
      Heavy metal impurities are an inevitable issue related to phosphate fertilizers. They originate from the raw material rock phosphate. The heavy metal content of the end product can only be controlled by the selection of the phosphate rock.
    • Additives/coatings
      Waste materials of additives and coatings should be treated by recycling operators.

  • Establish a waste management strategy and provide advice to service providers and customers. Re-use and recycling of non-conforming materials should be carried out in accordance with Fertilizers Europe Guidance for Safe Handling and Utilization of Non-conforming Solid Fertilizers and Related Materials for Producers and Guidance for Safe Handling and Utilization of Non-conforming Solid Fertilizers and Related Materials for Fertilizer Importers, Distributors and Merchants. See also Fertilizers Europe leaflet on Guidance for Handling Non-conforming Ammonium Nitrate Based Fertilizers in Distribution Chain.