Largest phosphorus flows in chemical industry, energy and agro-food sectors
In 2009, the phosphorus flows in 10 nodes of the Flemish economy and households varied between 0.01 and 83 ktonnes P. The largest flow passes through the chemical and other industries (83 ktonnes P). These include the fertiliser industry, the phosphate industry and the paper industry, with the phosphate industry accounting for the lion's share of processing of phosphorus. The limited interaction with other nodes is reflected in large imports of ores and large exports of processed products.
The agro-food sectors (cattle feed industry, agriculture split up into animal production and crop production, and food industry) form the main block within which intense exchange of phosphorus between the nodes takes place. Imports of phosphorus in the form of crops for cattle feed have been allocated to the cattle feed sector. The processing of manure has been allocated to the node 'biomass processing'. This also includes the composting of organic biological waste (fruit, vegetable and garden refuse, green compost and other organic waste) and industrial digestion with power generation. This relatively small flow (7.8 ktonnes P) is in full expansion and has therefore been included as a separate node.
Households and trade & service include residential phosphorus flows through food consumption (6.5 ktonnes P).
The waste processing industry processes 15 ktonnes P; all flows are assumed to be exported either as unprocessed waste or as ash after incineration. Public wastewater treatment processes final production and consumption flows in Flanders (3.6 ktonnes P). Public wastewater treatment comprises the interconnected sewer system (including sewer overflows) and sludge treatment.
Potential for reuse and recycling
Total imports across all nodes are estimated at 118 ktonnes P, or 118 million kg P. Exports amount to 115 ktonnes P. The difference, 3 ktonnes P, indicates the order of magnitude of environmental losses or emissions, and also accumulation in the environment in 2009. Phosphorus is emitted only to water and soil and a precise estimation of the emissions to water is included in the MIRA core set environmental data.
It shows that Flanders has a surplus of phosphorus available in waste and residual flows such as household waste water, organic biological waste and manure. This provides a large potential for reuse and recycling. Environmental gains can be achieved in the agro-food sectors in particular. Phosphorus can be reused and emissions to water and soil can be reduced.