Sustainable development

Phosphate is essential for life and in particular for plant growth and agricultural production. Phosphates in household wastewaters, including phosphates from detergents, can be recycled by using sewage biosolids in agriculture or in energy biomass production, or by recovering the phosphate in the form of fertiliser or other industrial raw material in sewage works.

Depending on the type of sewage management in place and the local agricultural system and industrial infrastructure, sewage phosphates can be recycled by agricultural spreading of sewage biosolids (after treatment to ensure sanitisation, composting or methane production and subject to strict quality control and spreading management), or by the use of sewage to feed aquaculture (production of plants used as animal feed, fertiliser, or burnt for renewable energy production). In all these cases, not only phosphates, but also nitrogen, minerals such as potassium and magnesium, and organic matter are also recycled.

In sewage treatment plants operating nutrient removal where agricultural use of biosolids is not feasible, phosphates can be recovered either from the sewage sludge incineration ash (which can be used as a secondary raw material to replace phosphate rock) or in the sewage works as a chemical fertiliser (e.g. as struvite = MAP, magnesium ammonium phosphate). Full scale plants are already operational in Europe, Asia, North America, recycling recovered phosphates in sewage sludge incineration ash and other waste streams (chicken manure ash, industrial wastes) into industry, or producing commercial “green” fertilisers.

Phosphates are thus the only recyclable detergent component and contribute to sustainable development.

à MORE [Link to pdf document “Phosphates and sustainable development”]

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