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Environ Sci Technol. 2016 Jul 5;50(13):6606-20. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.6b01239. Epub 2016 Jun 3.

Total Value of Phosphorus Recovery.

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Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, Marquette University , Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233, United States.
Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, University of Minnesota , St. Paul, Minnesota 55108, United States.
Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences, Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment (ESSIE), University of Florida , P.O. Box 116450, Gainesville, Florida 32611-6450, United States.
International Water Management Institute (IWMI), P.O. Box 2075, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, Arizona State University , 660 South College Avenue, Tempe, Arizona 85281, United States.
Department of Civil Engineering, Kansas State University , 2118 Fiedler Hall, Manhattan, Kansas 66506, United States.
School of Sustainability, Arizona State University , 800 South Cady Mall, Tempe, Arizona 85281, United States.
Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, Arizona State University , P.O. Box 875701, Tempe, Arizona 85287-5701, United States.


Phosphorus (P) is a critical, geographically concentrated, nonrenewable resource necessary to support global food production. In excess (e.g., due to runoff or wastewater discharges), P is also a primary cause of eutrophication. To reconcile the simultaneous shortage and overabundance of P, lost P flows must be recovered and reused, alongside improvements in P-use efficiency. While this motivation is increasingly being recognized, little P recovery is practiced today, as recovered P generally cannot compete with the relatively low cost of mined P. Therefore, P is often captured to prevent its release into the environment without beneficial recovery and reuse. However, additional incentives for P recovery emerge when accounting for the total value of P recovery. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the range of benefits of recovering P from waste streams, i.e., the total value of recovering P. This approach accounts for P products, as well as other assets that are associated with P and can be recovered in parallel, such as energy, nitrogen, metals and minerals, and water. Additionally, P recovery provides valuable services to society and the environment by protecting and improving environmental quality, enhancing efficiency of waste treatment facilities, and improving food security and social equity. The needs to make P recovery a reality are also discussed, including business models, bottlenecks, and policy and education strategies.

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