What do you perceive as the most pressing resource constraints in your business and how do you address them?
Resource constrains are a material issue for our organization, as stakeholders (employees, regulators, customers, investors, NGO's, etc.) are increasingly environmentally-concerned, and expect the company to both minimize raw material usuage and waste output in our production, and to make sure that the nutrient efficiency of its fertilizers is maximized and environmental damage (nutrient leaching and volatilization) is minimized.
To meet these expectations and help the global transition towards circular economy, ICL is piloting and implementing production processes that replace some of its raw materials with both internal and external waste streams. The company is also actively searching for external industrial business partners that could use significant by-product streams from ICL's production (such as Fluosilicic Acid and Oil Shale Ash), as replacement for raw materials. Click here for further details on these efforts.
On the product side, ICL has been steadily increasing its portfolio of controlled release fertilizers (CRFs), fertigation products, and wetting agents that allow growers to optimize their yields, reduce fertilizer use, save irrigation water and reduce environmental impact caused by leaching and volatilization of nutrients. Read more here.
In addition, the company promotes the correct and effective usage of fertilizers through training, engagement, and information sharing. These actions help to both increase crop yield and decrease environmental impact. Read more here.
What motivated you to set up a phosphate recycling unit in the Netherlands?
As previously mentioned, sustainability and circularity and have become increasingly important to ICL stakeholders. One such example relevant to ICL's business is the European commission's decision to declare phosphate as a scare resource, and to encourage phosphate recycling.
In early 2019, ICL's Amfert plant in Amsterdam commenced the operation of its first innovative Phosphate recycling project unit, which aims to use recycled phosphates from waste streams (ash from sewage sludge and bone meal) as a raw material. The project's goal is for the site to substitute up to 25% of its phosphate rock consumption with recycled sources. This innovative effort is unprecedented in the global Phosphate industry. The company has recognized environmental and financial benefits to this project, along with a potential to market new types of fertilizers, based on recycled materials. Read more here.
How big of a role does recycling play in overall production at ICL, and how do you see nutrient recycling scaling up in the future within the company?
ICL is committed to contribute to the global effort towards circular economy and has already undertaken several such initiatives. The company tracks and manages all produced waste streams, takes various steps to reduce their output and strives to maximize potential reuse and recycling of relevant waste streams.
Specifically regarding ICL's phosphate recycling project, the scaling up process faces some challenges. Relevant European Environmental and Health regulations are still not final, and this uncertainty somewhat hinders the ability to scale up the production of fertilizers with certain waste types. Furthermore, the production processes for both the ICL sites and for the external by-stream suppliers are still being developed. Phosphate recycling in general is a new and developing market and networks, products and business relationships are still evolving.
Given your entry into nutrient recycling, what would you say are the most important attributes required to scale up the use of recycled nutrients (cost, safety, efficacy, carbon footprint, etc.)?
As stated, regulatory stability regarding this type of production is important for scaling up. In addition, the new fertilizers produced from these recycled nutrients must prove to be safe for usage and to have good nutrient properties. The rate and success of any scale-up process will depend on usability, on the efficiency of our production processes and on future market dynamics.