German Companies Unite Efforts in Phosphorus Crisis Resistance

Sauberer Phosphor 2029
The Sauberer Phosphor 2029 initiative aims at finding effective methods of water purification and phosphorus recycling by 2029.

A number of major German companies have joined efforts to find a way to recover and recycle phosphorus from wastewater. The Sauberer Phosphor 2029 initiative aims at finding effective methods of water purification and phosphorus recycling by 2029. It is in direct connection with the German Sewage Sludge Ordinance, recently amended to begin requiring the recycling of phosphorus from sewage sludge ash in 2029.

Among the initiative supporters are major German companies such as EasyMining Germany, Gelsenwasser, MSE Mobile Schlammentwässerungs, PTC-Parforce-Technology Cooperation, Parforce Engineering und Consulting, KSR Klärschlammrecycling Bitterfeld-Wolfen, Phosphorgewinnung Schkopau, and Ragn-Sells. Together. These companies collaborated to create a paper entitled “Sauberer Phosphor 2029” which outlines seven agreed-upon qualities for clean phosphorus recovery. The companies’ representatives believe that wastewater treatment and nutrient recycling can only be considered if they are conducted in a sustainable way.

«Nutrient recycling is essential but can only be considered if conducted in a sustainable way. This is why this initiative is so important. Three things matter when it comes to phosphorus recycling; quality, volume and reliability.” — Christian Kabbe, CEO of EasyMining Germany.

Phosphorus: the Benefits and the Dangers

We have posted about the use and threats of phosphorus before, as well as dwelled on the so-called “phosphorus crisis”. Phosphorus is a vital element in plant fertilizers and an essential additive for livestock feed. An adult human requires about 800 mg of phosphorus daily. However, we consume significantly bigger amounts with fertilizer-grown foods. Phosphorus is absorbed by humans through food consumption in the form of phosphates and is released again, especially through urine, thus entering wastewater. It is removed from wastewater in treatment plants and finally ends up in sewage sludge. Although the water itself is treated, there is still no universal way of removing phosphorus from the sludge. After the sludge is dumped into the environment, the phosphorus re-renters the water, and the cycle restarts.

The biggest phosphate deposits are located in Morocco, Russia, and China. In the European Union and many other regions of the world, phosphorus has been declared a critical raw material due to the lack of domestic deposits and the high dependence on imports. The recovery of phosphorus from residual materials such as sewage sludge or ash as a domestic source of phosphorus is therefore a key area of interest. 

Phosphorus Goals for 2029

With the adoption of Sauberer Phosphor 2029 Germany sets its target to treat sewage sludge and to recover phosphorus from 1 January 2029. According to the amended ordinance, the phosphorus content in the sewage sludge must be reduced to less than two per cent P (20g/kg DM) remains in the sewage sludge dry matter.

Sewage sludge ash consists of a large number of different, complex material and mineral phases formed by incineration. The phosphorus is embedded in some of these material and mineral phases and has to be extracted in a complex way.

PTC-Parforce-Technology Cooperation has developed PARFORCE technology which is a wet-chemical process that separates most pollutants and impurities and produces phosphoric acid which electro-dialysis is used to purify. 

The ‘Sea of Opportunity’, a documentary produced by the EU, showcased innovative technologies in wastewater and agriculture to drive nutrient recovery across the Baltic Sea Region. It highlighted three promising EU technologies that can recapture phosphorus and nitrogen for reuse in agriculture are featured in the documentary.