Keywords: Phosphorus recovery, recycling, Life Cycle Assessment, LCA, circular economy, sewage, manure, struvite.
To sustain good harvests, each year more than one million tonnes of mineral phosphorus have to be imported to the European Union (van Dijk et al., unpublished data), while the potential to recover and recycle this essential resource remains untapped or is just inefficiently used as in the case of sewage sludge, manure and food waste. In recent years various technical solutions have been developed to recover phosphorus providing mineral compounds suitable as raw material for fertiliser production or even as ready-to-use fertiliser. Regarding the implementation of these technologies, operational benefits for plant operators like the water utilities in the case of P recovery from wastewater and/or sewage sludge are the strongest argument for their market penetration. Without the provision of direct operational benefits, implementation needs to be motivated or even enforced by suitable and reliable policies. In order to realise a circular economy, it is important not just to focus on the recovery itself. The recovered materials need to match the requirements and needs of their intended users. Therefore, full value-chain solutions have to be promoted instead of isolated technology-focused approaches. Following our principles of sustainability and resource efficiency, the assessment of innovations must also include their environmental impact.
This review provides an overview of recently developed and promising technologies for phosphorus recovery from wastewater and discusses aspects regarding their wide-spread application, along with their limitations. It will focus on recovery and recycling from sewage sludge. Not only the technologies themselves, also the recovered materials and their valorisation options are addressed. Results of the EU FP7 funded project P-REX entitled ‘Sustainable sewage sludge management fostering phosphorus recovery and energy efficiency’ and other recent initiatives will be included. Since innovation always needs an enabling environment for market penetration, barriers set by the existing legal framework and measures to resolve them will be reviewed. Finally, Goethe’s words are true more than ever: ‘Knowing is not enough, we must apply! Willing is not enough, we must do!’
C Kabbe, C Remy and F Kraus, Berlin Centre of Competence for Water, Cicerostrasse 24, 10709 Berlin, Germany
31 pages, 19 figures, 2 tables, 30 references