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Closing the cycles together
If farming in the Netherlands is to remain a vibrant sector, we have to manage the soil sustainably. Cosun is more
than willing to play its part. As an arable cooperative and agro-industrial group, it is in our interests to ensure
that agricultural land is fertile and remains in good condition. We can do this by effectively recycling the organic
residual flows and micronutrients produced by our production processes. We look upon recycling as an investment
in our future. Not only for our business but for all arable farmers in the Netherlands.
Closing the cycles requires all the players in the agricultural chains to work together to return nutrients to the fields. In other words, we must return valuable organic matter and minerals to their original location wherever possible. The lime fertiliser Betacal, for example, can be used to return phosphates to the fields, where it will serve as nutrient again for the crops. Digestate from the biomass digesters and struvite from the process water treatment plants can also be returned to the fields. These are the first cycles between the primary sector, arable farming in this case, and the secondary sector, our production sites. Beet pulp and chicory pulp can be used as animal feed in livestock farming.
There are more ways to close the cycles. Some can be found in our own processes; some rely on cooperation with other links in the chain. We purify process water, for example, so that we can use it to wash the beet in the sugar factories. The factory in Dinteloord supplies some of its surplus treated water to local greenhouse growers. The methane we produce during water treatment is used to power steam turbines and cut our natural gas consumption. Our large production facilities have been operating biological digesters for several years in order to ferment their organic residual flows into green gas. The digestate remaining after the gas has been extracted is used as an organic manure in arable and glasshouse farming to keep the soil in good condition.
By combatting the wasteful use of raw materials and setting up wider alliances, we will be able to close even more cycles in the future. Working in chains and geographical clusters, moreover, reduces the need to import minerals. In its own interests and in the interests of society, Cosun wants to play a meaningful role in the circular economy. We are investing in research and development to extract even more value from our raw materials. To do so, we are looking beyond the confines of our own industry. We invite others to join us in our quest for new and higher value applications and to close the cycles with us. Without their cooperation, deeper sustainability is inconceivable. By working together, the livestock and arable sectors will create ways to realise this circularity, regionally and nationally. We expect the government to facilitate and promote such innovations by removing legal barriers. Inefficiencies must be regulated out of the market.
This report accounts for our activities and results in 2016 and provides an insight into how we are striving to work sustainably and responsibly. It has been written not only for our staff, members, suppliers, customers and social stakeholders but for everyone who feels involved with Cosun and cares for the environment. We welcome comments about this publication. Who knows, your response might be the start of a new alliance to close even more cycles.