Recycling Phosphorus From Wastewater

An Fóram Uisce calls for a national policy of recycling phosphorus from wastewater to support the Agri Food Strategy over the coming decades.

As a part of its recent “Submission To The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in Relation to the Public Consultation Process on the Agri-Food Strategy 2030″,

In their submission An Fóram Uisce is now calling on the Irish Government for additional actions to recycle non-toxic phosphorus from city wastewater for use as a fertiliser, which would also support the reduction of nutrients contained in municipal sewage treatment discharges. Sustainable phosphorus management is already being highlighted within Europe due to concerns over a future global supply shortage to meet the growing food demand. An Fóram acknowledges that this will involve collaboration with Irish Water and Government Departments, and it is welcomed that Dublin’s Wastewater will soon be recovering phosphorus as struvite.

(Read the submission for yourself: FINAL_Submission-Agri-Food-Stratefy-2030_An-Foram-Uisce.pdf (

ZWAI agrees with this position by An Fóram Uisce. We fully support their call for the circular economy for key materials such as phosphorus. It is so important to sustainable food production. We are concerned that the economics of food production in Ireland could eventually be impacted by over reliance on imported synthetic fertiliser cost increases over the coming decades. The new trend needs to be more efficient in the use of fertilisers on farms, and an increasing care needs to be taken, to be less wasteful of fertilizers.

ZWAI also welcomes the European Green Deal “EU Farm to Fork Strategy”. Under this Agri Food Strategy the aim is for a 20% reduction in fertiliser use by 2030 as well as a further 50% reduction in chemical and hazardous pesticides. One of the proposed actions in the draft Nitrates Action Programme is the establishment of a chemical fertiliser sales register and a reduction in the application time periods. This provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the need to reduce artificial fertiliser use and the proper management and application of organic fertilisers.

The recycling of non-toxic phosphorus and nitrogen from municipal wastewater will gradually have to become an increasingly important element in reducing nutrients from municipal sewage treatment systems, to be safely used on Irish farms.

Though Dublin’s Wastewater will soon be recovering phosphorus as Struvite, ZWAI believes that this needs to happen also with all the other municipal and big town sewage treatment plants in future throughout the State. ZWAI also calls on the Government to recognize that human urine is free of toxic metals and is the most renewable and concentrated source of nitrogen and phosphorus. This nutrient source needs to be separated and harvested.

Unless there is enough recycling and more efficient management of nitrogen and phosphorus, ZWAI believes that there may not be adequate fertilisers available to keep food prices low and to meet growing worldwide consumer food demand, as the global population increases from 7 billion to possibly 9 billion.