2021-06-28 03:50Press release

New Nordic collaboration for phosphorus recycling catches minister’s interest

Partners from Sweden, Denmark, and Norway have launched a joint project to recycle the valuable nutrient phosphorus. Using the environmental company Ragn-Sells’ technology, phosphorus will be recovered from waste from Danish poultry farming and Norwegian fish farming. Denmark's Minister for Agriculture Rasmus Prehn visited the newly established research project.

– As Minister for Agriculture, I want residual products from agriculture to be recycled as much as possible, so that agriculture contributes to the green transition, says Rasmus Prehn, Denmark's Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, in an interview with Danish public service channel TV2 in connection with the visit.

The project Prehn visited will jointly solve several challenges facing the Nordic countries. The nutrient phosphorus is crucial for agriculture, but Europe is dependent on imported phosphorus from mining in other parts of the world. At the same time, Denmark and Norway have large surpluses of phosphorus, as animal husbandry in Denmark and fish farming in Norway import large amounts of phosphorus-based feed.

Norway's fish farming alone causes about 9,000 tons of phosphorus emissions into the sea each year, according to the European Environment Agency. This corresponds to a quarter of the phosphorus contents of Denmark's animal feed imports. Hence, being able to recover the phosphorus and using it again means great potential for a more sustainable industry.

– A sustainable society requires that we start reusing materials that we already have, particularly finite ones like phosphorus. This project has international potential, and it is an important step when agricultural countries such as Denmark take a leading role and the responsible minister shows such great interest in circular solutions, says Anders Kihl, Head of Research and Ddevelopment at Ragn-Sells.

The project will use the Ash2Phos technology, a patented method for extracting phosphorus from ash, developed by Ragn-Sells’ innovation company EasyMining. In the collaboration, phosphorus-rich sludge from Norwegian fish farming is transported to the biogas company GrønGas in Hjørring, Denmark, where it is digested to extract energy in the form of biogas. The residues, where phosphorus is concentrated, are then blended with waste from the poultry breeder Danhatch, which also contains large amounts of the valuable nutrient. After incineration in a regular waste incineration facility, the ash is sent to EasyMining in Sweden, where more than 90 percent of the phosphorus is extracted while unwanted substances are removed.

The environmental company Ragn-Sells was recently awarded SEK 51 million from Klimatklivet, Sweden's state investment aid supporting technology that reduces climate emissions, to build a facility for phosphorus recycling in the southern Swedish city of Helsingborg, near Denmark. The goal of the trial in Hjørring is to eventually recycle phosphorus on a large scale in the Helsingborg plant. The process of obtaining necessary permits is ongoing.

– The European Commission is crystal clear: We must find circular, sustainable ways to supply agriculture with phosphorus. Therefore, we are pleased that Sweden, Norway, and Denmark see the environmental and climate benefits that our technology can contribute to. We look forward to cooperating with Swedish authorities to start recycling phosphorus in Helsingborg as soon as possible, says Anders Kihl.

In addition to Ragn-Sells and EasyMining, Affaldsselskabet AVV, GrønGas, Danhatch, Biomass.dk, agriculture Asdal Hovedgaard and Hjørring municipality in northern Jutland stand behind the Nordic collaboration project. Aalborg University and the research organization SEGES participate as knowledge partners.

For more information, please contact
Anders Kihl, Head of Research and Development, Ragn-Sells, +46 70-927 26 84, anders.kihl@ragnsells.com
Jan Svärd, CEO, EasyMining, +46 70-978 64 74, jan.svard@easymining.se
Pär Larshans, Head of Sustainability, Ragn-Sells, +46 70-927 29 63, par.larshans@ragnsells.com
Emma Ranerfors, Press Officer, Ragn-Sells, +46 10-723 24 16, press@ragnsells.com

Press images are available for download and free editorial use here.

Fact box: Ash2Phos
Ragn-Sells’ wholly owned innovation company EasyMining has developed the technology Ash2Phos, which extracts over 90 percent of the phosphorus from the ash from incinerated sewage sludge. At the same time, virtually all pollutants are removed so that the product is the purest phosphorus on the market. Ragn-Sells was recently awarded SEK 51 million from Klimatklivet, Sweden's state investment aid supporting technology that reduces climate emissions, to build a plant for phosphorus recycling in the southern Swedish city of Helsingborg.

Fact box: Phosphorus
The element phosphorus, with the chemical name P, is included in mineral fertilizers and is necessary for agricultural food production. Both Sweden and the EU are dependent on imports, mainly from Morocco (Western Sahara), China, and Russia. Phosphorus today comes from the mining of phosphate rock.

The ore often contains impurities such as the toxic heavy metal cadmium. The cadmium accompanies the fertilizer, is absorbed by plants, and ends up on our plates, and thus in our bodies.

A government inquiry presented in 2020 proposes a legal requirement that at least 60 percent of the phosphorus contained in Sweden's sewage sludge must be recycled. This means a great need for new solutions for recycling. Several other countries in Europe have already legislated for similar requirements.

In the Swedish Environmental Objectives Committee's sub-report, “Havet och människan” (“ The Sea and Man”), which was presented in January of 2021, the Committee proposes that Sweden should push within the EU for a so-called quota obligation, i.e. that a certain proportion of nutrients in mineral fertilizers must be recycled raw material.

About Ragn-Sells Group

Ragn-Sells is a family owned corporate group, with operations in four countries. We started our journey in 1881, and since 1966 we have been involved in waste management, environmental services, and recycling. We collect, treat, detoxify, and recycle waste and residual products from businesses, organisations, and households so that they can become feedstock into new production processes. www.ragnsells.com


Emma Ranerfors
Press Officer
Emma Ranerfors