Title: Is phosphorus really a scarce resource?

Authors: Jörg Köhn; Dana Zimmer; Peter Leinweber

Addresses: Beckmann Institute for Bio-Based Production Lines e.V. (BIOP), Büdnerreihe 20a, D-18239 Heiligenhagen, Germany ' Soil Science, University of Rostock, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 6, D-18051 Rostock, Germany; Leibniz-Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde, Seestraße 15, 18119 Rostock, Germany ' Soil Science, University of Rostock, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 6, D-18051 Rostock, Germany

Abstract: Phosphorus is not a physically scarce resource but more than 90% of the stock is not technically extractable today. Economic scarcity takes this and other aspects into consideration. The price spike in 2007/8 induced a scientific debate on a 'peak P' similar to the dispute on the oil peak back in the 1970s. The processing of phosphate rock to P fertilisers fed the Green Revolution and, therefore, was seen a chance to overcome the hunger on earth. Thus, the expansive use of P had serious negative impacts to the reserve stock of P. However, if and only if business sees a certain price margin as a threshold beyond P cannot be explored and marketed with benefit for agricultural use, in this particular case only P gets really a scarce resource. The peak price shock in P had almost other reasons than a real physical shortcoming in the reserve stocks. Moreover, if a certain price threshold would be exceeded and agriculture and industry still demand P, recycling technologies and better management practices are already at hand to supply enough P for sustaining food production. Additionally, a consequent recycling of P rich wastes and usage of P accumulated in soils and sediments cannot only set limits for P pricing but also revoke postulated P peak and P scarcity.

Keywords: phosphorus; peak P; P-reserves; P-recycling; P-pricing.

DOI: 10.1504/IJETM.2018.100584

International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management, 2018 Vol.21 No.5/6, pp.373 - 395

Received: 20 Aug 2018
Accepted: 09 Jan 2019

Published online: 04 Jul 2019 *

Full-text access for editors Full-text access for subscribers Purchase this article Comment on this article