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Veolia and Yara partner to propel European Circular Economy

  • Veolia and Yara partner to propel European Circular Economy
    Veolia sewage treatment plant in Portugal (cc/Wikipedia)
  • Global resource recovery company Veolia and leading crop nutrition company Yara signed an agreement to develop circular economy in the European food and agricultural chain by recycling nutrients and creating “nutrient loops”.

About the entity

Veolia Water Technologies specializes in water treatment solutions, providing the complete range of services required to design, deliver, maintain and upgrade sustainable water and wastewater treatment facilities for industrial and municipal clients.

The expert partnership integrates Veolia’s access to growing volumes of recovered nutrients and expertise in handling organic materials with Yara’s mineral fertilizer production expertise and crop nutrition knowledge. The partnership connects the end and beginning of today’s linear food value chain and will effectively close the nutrient cycle. 

“Reducing global resource depletion and nutrient loss by increasing the recycling of nutrients such as Nitrogen and Phosphorus is an important task”, says Svein Tore Holsether, President and CEO of Yara. “The collaboration with Veolia is a contribution to our mission to responsibly feed the world and protect the planet”, Holsether continues.​

Veolia and Yara will scale up nutrient recycling in three promising areas. Together, the companies will develop new business models for a circular agriculture by establishing nutrient recycling models for high quality fertilizer products, not only via existing production processes but also via local recovery, processing, distribution and sales. The companies will also create a Food-to-Agriculture value chain, by collecting and processing food surpluses in cities. By coupling Veolia’s subsidiary Sede Angibaud expertise in the organic fertilizers with Yara’s knowledge in the market, these resources will become organo-mineral fertilizers and/or soil improvement solutions to agriculture, that includes also the peri-urban field. Lastly, Veolia and Yara will develop new business opportunities based on industrial symbiosis. The goal is an efficient model for the management of nutrient and chemical flows, such as by-products, raw materials and waste, between industrial players.

“We are delighted that Yara has chosen Veolia to support its circular economy strategy. Veolia and Yara already aim to have several new initiatives fully operational by 2024, including the launch of new fertilizer products and the start-up of nutrient recovery installations in several major European cities”, says Veolia Chairman & CEO Antoine Frérot. “The collaboration between our companies is a step closer to effectively closing the nutrient cycle”, he adds.​

Yara and Veolia have already set up a circular economy loop by recycling ammonia produced from composting green waste and wastewater sludges. In addition to other recovered materials, the recycled ammonia is further processed to Sodium Nitrate and reused in wastewater facilities to prevent odor and corrosion.
Several EU countries are putting in place regulations limiting waste disposal, enforcing lower emissions and mandating nutrient recovery. Also, the new European Fertilizer Regulation (NFR) enables and incentivizes use of recovered nutrients for new crop nutrition products. These new regulations will make large quantities of recovered nutrients available to be reused as fertilizers in agriculture. 

The economic potential of nutrient recycling towards fertilizers in Europe is enormous, and the new market potential may be up to EUR 2 billion.

The Veolia and Yara collaboration is an important step forward. But a more fundamental redesign of the food value chain is needed. Therefore, Yara and Veolia want to invite farmers’ associations, food brands, retailers and other players managing different waste streams as well as municipalities and government bodies to join a new alliance: the Nutrient Upcycling Alliance. The Alliance will promote and implement an environmentally sustainable and economically viable food system in the EU, by developing hands-on, business-driven projects.

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