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Project to recover vital phosphorus from waste water

Scotland – An essential nutrient widely deployed in farming, phosphorus is mined out of rock and is hard to recover once used; some estimates suggest reserves in the ground will run out within a century from now.

Against this backdrop, researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) in Scotland, together with 10 European partner organisations, have been awarded almost £500 000 (Euro 570 000) by European Commission body INTERREG NWE to contribute to a project aimed at reclaiming and recycling used phosphorus.

Dubbed Phos4You, it will run until 2020. The GCU team will work with partners from University of Highlands and Islands, also in Scotland, and Scottish Water to explore various techniques to extract phosphorus from waste water.

They will also be responsible for quality control and analysis of the extracted material to ensure its safety. Scotland’s agricultural sector relies on phosphorus but all its needs are satisfied by imports, with much of the material used ending up in sewage.

Professor Ole Pahl, associate dean of research in the GCU School of Engineering and Built Environment, comments: ‘The recovery of secondary phosphorus is vital. It is the second most important fertiliser for food production. We are hoping the project, Phos4You, can demonstrate that phosphorus can be recycled on a large scale with the recovered material being transported over large distances.’

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