Sustainable Phosphorus Consultation

The Global Phosphate Forum responded to the European Union public consultation on sustainable phosphorus use


Phosphates: best in detergents

The Global Phosphate Forum has published a brochure summarising up-to-date information concerning phosphates in laundry and dishwasher detergents, issues with substitutes, and the role of phosphates in modern, high performance detergent formulations

GPF Phosphates Best in Detergents, 2012

Eco-efficiency study confirms advantages of STPP

An eco-efficiency analysis of chelating agents indicates that STPP offers the best environmental performance (compared to GLDA, EDTA and NTA) for greenhouse emissions, primary energy use, land area use and risk potential. The study gives STPP a low overall mark because water emissions are given a higher weighting than any of the other twelve factors assessed, and STPP is given much higher score for this factor because of “eutrophication potential” assuming that detergent phosphates are discharged to eutrophication sensitive waters and that sewage is not adequately collected and treated.

SOFW Journal, 10-2009, T. Boren et al., “Eco-efficiency analysis – applied on chelating agents”

Fisherman concerned about insufficient phosphate
Fisherman in the Bodensee (Lake Constance), on the German, Swiss and Austria border, have written to authorities to express concern about declining catches, resulting from reducing phosphorus concentrations in the inland sea. Fish catches are down by maybe five times. The low phosphate levels in the water are reducing fish growth rates, because primary production of algae and plants is cut.
Phosphate fertiliser outlook
CRU has published an updated global outlook for the phosphate fertiliser market, including an assessment of market and supply developments, agricultural crop demand model, assessment of phosphate production capacity, and price forecasting. CRU estimates that demand for phosphate fertilisers will continue to fall in India and South-East Asia, but will grow in different crop sectors in Latin America.
EU Parliament votes for P-recycling

The European Parliament has called for a European policy and actions to ensure recovery and recycling of phosphates from sewage and other waste streams. The text voted on 24th May 2012 calls on the EU Commission "to draw up appropriate criteria and start pilot projects for … phosphorus, with a view to achieving virtually 100% reuse by 2020 and optimising their use and recycling; emphasises that such pilot projects should receive direct funding from the EU". EU Parliament Resolution on a Resource-Efficient Europe:

Phosphates 2012
The major 2-yearly conference which brings together the worldwide phosphate industry (rock production, fertiliser, animal feeds, food, detergents, other industrial uses).
  • Phosphate rock production and project developments
  • Global fertilizer outlook with a focus on key country demand projections and requirements
  • Developments in optimizing / streamlining and maximizing the phosphate resource
  • Survey of changing industrial phosphate demand, update of regulations and substitutes
  • Outlook of future feed phosphate demand and focus on regional growth

The event also offers site visits to the Jorf Lasfar Chemical Facility and to the Khourlbga Mine Facility.

El-Jadida, Morocco, 19th – 21st March 2012


Global TraPs 4th Workshop
Global TraPs is an international, transdisciplinary project addressing phosphorus resources and uses, bringing together scientists, industry and stakeholders to work on the following guiding question: What new knowledge, technologies and policy options are needed to ensure that future phosphorus use is sustainable, improves food security and environmental quality and provides benefits for the poor?

The 4th Workshop's objective is "Defining case studies and setting priorities" and will complete the conceptualisation phase of Global TraPs.

El-Jadida, Morocco, March 16th - 18th 2012

3rd Sustainable Phosphorus Summit
The 3rd Summit  will bring together key international science, policy and industry stakeholders from different parts of the food production and consumption chain concerned about the role of phosphorus availability and accessibility in global food security, about protecting the environment, and about supporting rural and urban livelihoods.
  • Sustainable food systems
  • Global phosphate rock production and reserves
  • Phosphorus use efficiency in mining, agriculture, food processing
  • Phosphorus recovery and reuse
  • Phosphorus pollution and waste
  • Sustainable phosphorus strategies and global governance
Sydney, Australia, 29th Feb. – 2nd March 2012


European Green Paper on Phosphorus
The EU published in 2010 a report on "Sustainable use of phosphorus", underlining that EU food security relies on imported phosphorus, both in fertilisers and ‘embedded' in imported foods and animal feeds, and that actions should be engaged to reduce Europe's phosphorus dependency, including optimising land use and agricultural P use, P-recovery and recycling, reducing food wastes and P-losses. The Commission has now confirmed the objective to publish a "Green Paper" on phosphorus in 2012, as a basis of discussion with stakeholders and institutions, to define a phosphorus resource efficiency strategy. Stakeholder input will be invited in response to the Phosphorus Green Paper in 2012.
"Optimizing Natural Resources", Michael Hamell, DG Environment, EU Commission, 19th October 2011 (Fertilizers, food and natural resources conference - Fertilizers Europe):
Conclusions of the Expert Seminar on the sustainability of phosphorus resources, EU Commission DG Environment, Brussels, 17th February 2011:
Global Phosphorus Network

The Global Phosphorus Network is a new platform to exchange information, news, opinions between stakeholders, policy-makers and experts. Join at:

Green Alliance - P stewardship for a circular economy
Green Alliance, UK environment NGO, has published a report on "A circular economy for resource security", looking at three key resources: water, metals and phosphorus. The work involved the UK Environment Ministry DEFRA and a wide range of stakeholders, including industry, users and environmental NGOs. Green Alliance point to other important reasons for concern about phosphorus supply security: increasing demand (growing world population, increasing meat and dairy consumption in developing countries, phosphate fertiliser needs for energy and other non-food crops), geopolitics (phosphate rock reserves are held by only very few countries) and declining quality of available rock (lower P content, higher problem impurities). The report indicates that a more circular economy for phosphorus, with both more efficient use and increased recovery and recycling, is necessary both to address supply security (essential both for long-term national food supply, and for many other user industries) and to reduce negative environmental impacts of phosphorus loss to the environment. Available online at:
EU Consultation on raw materials

The European Commission has opened a public consultation on strategic raw materials policy, looking at raw materials for which shortages and supply could become critical for European industry and society in coming years. Issues addressed include trade conditions and recycling.

At present, phosphates are not one of the 14 materials identified by the initial report used as the basis for this Consultation. The European chemical and phosphate industries have replied to the consultation emphasising that phosphates are essential for Europe’s industry, agriculture and food, are mainly imported, and are a strategic resource for the future.

EU consultation open until 19th September 2010

Revised European phosphate risk assessment validated
A completely revised INIA study assessing the eutrophication risk associated with detergent phosphates in Europe has been validated by the EU scientific committee SCHER, concluding that:

"Eutrophication is a localised problem and is best addressed by locally adapted approaches"

"... at pan-European scale the contribution of the P-based detergents is not playing a major role in the eutrophication process."

SCHER fully validates both the methodology of the INIA study and its overall conclusions, which cover both domestic laundry and domestic dishwasher detergent phosphates, using 2007 phosphate consumption data provided by the detergent industry (AISE)

The revised INIA report uses the official water quality data from the EU member states, collated by the EU Commission Joint Research Centre. This addresses one of the main criticisms made by SCHER of the first INIA report, that the data used was not representative. The number of data points is increased from around 300 to 2600. The new report is thus based on the best data available.

INIA report published on EU Commission official website: "Development of an European quantitative eutrophication risk assessment of polyphosphates in detergents. Model validation using the WFD intercalibration data, model re-calibration and pan-European assessment of the eutrophication risk association to the use of phosphates in detergents", INIA/Green Planet, April 2009.

Official Layman's Summary LINKFull report:  LINKSCHER Opinion (9/11/2009):

Consumer organisations question P-free detergents performance

Independent tests by consumer organisations question the washing performance of P-free dishwasher detergents.

Consumer organisations and media in the USA and Belgium suggest that detergents without phosphates "tend to perform worst overall" and do not adequately clean dishes, remove grease, or leave films. They also question the environmental issues, indicating that phosphates have to be replaced by other chemicals which are "even more polluting, directly toxic and/or poorly biodegradable" and with probably irreversible effects.

Consumer Reports USA August 2009:

Consumer Reports USA October 2009:

Media coverage Spokane USA:

Test-Achats Belgium, n°538, January 2010

International Conference on Nutrient Recovery from Wastewater Streams
May 10th - 13th  2009 - Vancouver
British Columbia, Canada.
Speakers include:  Dr. James Barnard (2007 Clarke Prize), Robert F Kennedy (Chief Prosecuting Attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper and President of Waterkeeper Alliance )

May 14th - Technical visits - Including full-scale struvite recovery installations operating in municipal sewage works in Canada, USA, and to stream and reservoir fertilisation project.
Programme, Registration, Technical Visits:
12-2008 European Opinion on P-substitutes

The European Union’s official scientific committee SCHER has published a new Opinion on organic substances used as substitutes for STPP in laundry detergents.

SCHER considers that potential risks from the use of Polycarboxylates (PCAs) and phosphonates in P-free detergents cannot be excluded.

SCHER concludes that further information is needed on the impacts of polycarboxylates on the environment, in particular on toxicity to fish and to soil microbial functions. SCHER also suggests that exposure levels need to be confirmed.

SCHER confirms that polycarboxylates should be considered NOT READILY BIODEGRADABLE. For phosphonates, SCHER indicates that “the available information is not sufficient to exclude a potential risk at European level, in particular for terrestrial and aquatic organisms”.

SCHER Opinion “Anaerobic Degradation of Surfactants and Biodegradation of Non Surfactant Organic Ingredients” Opinion 17th November 2008: 
12-2008 The UK looks at P-recovery

The UK’s official advisory committee on chemicals, ACHS, has recommended that “the feasibility of reusing phosphates recovered from sewage treatment plants should be investigated” concluding that:

“Recovery and use of phosphorus as struvite also offers a number of major sustainable advantages, including natural resource protection of phosphate rocks and environmental enhancements through nutrient recovery / recycling and reduction in greenhouse gases.” ...

“Direct application of treated sewage sludge to agricultural / arable land represents a cost-effective way to recycle multi-nutrients to crops.”

ACHS concludes by recommending that a life-cycle and cost assessment of P-removal and P-recovery be carried out, to assist decision making on investments in sewage works where nutrient removal needs to be installed in coming years (in application of EU sewage treatment and Water Framework Directives).

30th January 2009: ACHS review of the feasibility of recycling phosphates at sewage treatment plants

6/2007 Phosphorus recycling in Canada
North America’s first full-scale commercial struvite recovery reactor started operation in Edmonton, Canada, in early 2007. Built by Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies Inc., the plant is based on the fluidised bed reactor technology developed by UBC (University of British Columbia) over recent years. The struvite fertiliser produced is marketed under the name of Crystal Green. A further project is now being tested, with a pilot plant at the Clean Water Services Durham Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility, Oregon.
7/2007 Closing the loop
A report published by Green Alliance, UK, presents the need to ‘close the loop’ of nutrient cycle management, by recycling phosphates: “for long-term sustainability. Phosphorus recovery during wastewater treatment is highly efficient … under these circumstances, it may not be necessary to control inputs of phosphorus to the wastewater collection system.”

Green Alliance’s report “The nutrient cycle: closing the loop”, 2007.

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