Phosphorus & Fertiliser


With limited sediment reserves of phosphorus and increasing global fertiliser2demand, phosphorus is considered a crucial strategic resource which governments are now prioritising in their recycling strategies.  The potential to extract phosphorus from sewage sludge using new recovery technologies is therefore set to take on greater importance in the future.  


At a European level an EC Consultative Communication on the sustainable use of phosphorus (2013) sets out the issues.  It acknowledges that phosphorus recovery initiatives remain scattered, but cites Sweden as an example where a national interim target has been established: "By 2015, at least 60% of phosphorus compounds present in wastewater will be recovered for use on productive land. At least half of this amount should be returned to arable land". Read the consultation document here.


As governments examine ways to leverage the potential of sewage sludge to help secure the phosphorus supply, a number of relevant reports and policy papers have been published:


Water Supply and Sanitation in Sweden

Sweden, always at the forefront of environmentally sustainable policy, published a report by the Water and Wastewater Association back in 2000 in which phosphorus is indicated as an important nutrient to be extracted from sewage sludge. Looking to the future, the report suggests there will be variety of solutions to manage waste and that the general goal to solve the sewage sludge issue is “to reuse contents of nutrients, especially phosphorus”. Read the report here


Sewage Sludge Management in Germany

A report by the German environment protection agency promotes the development and use of new methods that allow for large scale recycling of phosphorus from municipal sewage sludge and sewage.  The report details the current policy goal for at least 20% of Germany’s raw phosphate to be obtained from sewage sludge or sewage sludge ash in the coming years.  Mention is also made of Swiss intentions to pass legislation on phosphorus recovery with a view to becoming a phosporus exporting nation.  Meanwhile Japan, Canada and the US are highlighted as countries at the vanguard of bringing large scale phosphorus projects to fruition.   Read the report here.


Denmark without Waste

In Denmark, a government report supports the increased recovery of important nutrients from sewage sludge, particularly phosphorus.  Its Resource Strategy aims to recycle 80% of phosphorus from sewage sludge by 2018, up from the current recycled rate of 50-55%. Read the report here.