The Austrian P budget as a basis for resource optimization

Phosphorus (P) is a finite and non-substitutable resource that is essential to sustaining high levels of agricultural productivity but is also responsible for environmental problems, e.g., eutrophication. Based on the methodology of Material Flow Analysis, this study attempts to quantify all relevant flows and stocks of phosphorus (P) in Austria, with a special focus on waste and wastewater management. The system is modeled with the software STAN, which considers data uncertainty and applies data reconciliation and error propagation. The main novelty of this work lies in the high level of detail at which flows and stocks have been quantified to achieve a deeper understanding of the system and to provide a sound basis for the evaluation of various management options. The budget confirms on the one hand the dependence of mineral P fertilizer application (2 kg cap −1 yr −1), but it highlights on the other hand considerable unexploited potential for improvement. For example, municipal sewage sludge (0.75 kg cap −1 yr −1) and meat and bone meal (0.65 kg cap −1 yr −1) could potentially substitute 70% of the total applied mineral P fertilizers. However, recycling rates are low for several P flows (e.g., 27% of municipal sewage sludge; 3% of meat and bone meal). Therefore, Austria is building up a remarkable P stock (2.1 kg P cap −1 yr −1), mainly due to accumulation in landfills (1.1 kg P cap −1 yr −1) and agricultural soils (0.48 kg P cap −1 yr −1).

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