Food Consumption and Nutrient Flows: Nitrogen in Sweden Since the 1870s

Changes in food consumption and related processes have a significant impact on the flow of nitrogen in the environment. This study identifies both flows within the system and emissions to the hydrosphere and atmosphere. A case study of an average inhabitant of the city of Linköping, Sweden, covers the years 1870, 1900, 1950, and 2000 and includes changes in food consumption and processing, agricultural production, and organic waste handling practices. Emissions to the hydrosphere from organic waste handling increased from 0.57 kilograms of nitrogen per capita per year (kg N/cap per year) to 3.1 kg N/cap per year, whereas the total flow of nitrogen to waste deposits grew from a negligible amount to 1.7 kg N/cap per year. The largest flow of nitrogen during the entire period came from fodder. The input of chemical fertilizer rose gradually to a high level of 15 kg N/cap per year in the year 2000. The total load per capita disposed of to the environment decreased during these 130 years by about 30%.

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