Phosphorus recovery and recycling from waste: An appraisal based on a French case study

"Phosphate rocks, used for phosphorus (P) fertilizer production, are a non-renewable resource at the human time scale. Their depletion at the global scale may threaten global food and feed security. To prevent this depletion, improved P resource recycling from food chain waste to agricultural soils and to the food and feed industry is often presented as a serious option. However, waste streams are often complex and their recycling efficiency is poorly characterized. The aim of this paper is to estimate the P recovery and recycling potential from waste, considering France as a case study. We assessed the P flows in food processing waste, household wastewater and municipal waste at the country scale using a substance flow analysis for the year 2006. We also quantified the P recycling efficiency as the fraction of P in waste that ultimately reached agricultural soils or was recycled in the food and feed industry. Efforts were made to limit data uncertainty by cross-checking multiple data sources concerning P content in waste materials. Results showed that, in general, P recovery in waste was high but that the overall P recycling efficiency was only 51% at the country scale. In particular, P recycling efficiency was 75% for industrial waste, 43% for household wastewater and 47% for municipal waste. The remaining P was discharged into water bodies or landfilled, causing P-induced environmental problems as well as losses of nutrient resources. Major P losses were through food waste (which amounted to 39% of P in available food) and treated wastewater, and the findings were confirmed through cross-checking with alternative data sources. Options for improving P resource recycling and, thereby, reducing P fertilizer use were quantified but appeared to be less promising than scenarios based on reduced food waste or redesigned agricultural systems." (


Scientific article

Author names: 

Kalimuthu Senthilkumar, Alain Mollier, Magalie Delmas, Sylvain Pellerin,Thomas Nesme

Length (pp): 

12 (pp. 97-108)




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