Recycling. Towards a circular economy – Part 3*

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CTO at Avantium and Professor of Industrial Sustainable Chemistry at the University of Amsterdam

In the previous two issues of Chimica OGGI / Chemistry TODAY the recycling of plastics and the recycling of metals were discussed, respectively. To get to a circular economy, we need to help conserve all valuable resources. Many “endangered” elements of the Periodic Table need to be recycled for re-use. In this issue the recycling of phosphorous (P) will be discussed.  

Phosphorus is essential to life on Earth and phosphorous depletion frequently limits agricultural productivity. Phosphorous also has many industrial applications, including household detergents. Phosphorous use is inefficient and losses to the environment are high. Each year, more than a million tons of phosphorous compounds are imported into the EU. The current worldwide P reserves are estimated at 67.000 million tons and the world mining production in 2013 was 220 million tons. About 75 % of the known reserves are located in Morocco, which is the main exporter of phosphate ore. 

Humanity relies on finite phosphate rock resources used for chemical fertilizer production. Continued efforts to enhance ...