Pathways and Management of Phosphorus in Urban Areas
Due to the finite nature of mineral phosphorus reserves, effective management of anthropogenic phosphorus flows is currently under investigation by the international research community. This article emphasizes the importance of urban phosphorus flows, which are often marginalized due to the greater magnitude of agricultural phosphorus flows. A study on phosphorus flows in Gothenburg, Sweden, points out the potential role of solid waste in nutrient management, as the amounts of phosphorus in solid waste and in wastewater were found to be equal. Importation of food commodities accounts for 50% of the total inflow of phosphorus, and food waste is a major contributor of phosphorus to solid waste. The results suggest that solid waste incineration residues represent a large underestimated sink of phosphorus. Focusing on wastewater as the sole source of recovered phosphorus is not sufficient. The Swedish national goal on phosphorus recycling, which is limited to sewage sludge, targets only a part of the total phosphorus flow that can potentially be recovered. In contrast to previous studies, agricultural flows in Gothenburg were marginal compared to flows related to the urban waste management infrastructure. We emphasize the need for debate on preferable routes for disposal of waste with a high phosphorus content. Both recovery potential and usefulness of the recovered product for agricultural purposes have to be considered. Impacts of five waste management strategies on phosphorus flows were evaluated: incineration of all the waste, comprehensive food waste separation, installation of kitchen grinders, urine diversion, and separation of blackwater and food waste.
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