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Phosphorus flows

The processing of phosphorus-containing materials (phosphate ore) and the processing of phosphorus into consumer goods (fertilisers, feed phosphates, detergents, etc.) gives rise to large flows in the Flemish economy and households.  This processing also involves imports and exports of phosphorus across regional and national boundaries. Phosphorus flows may be subject to losses which lead to emissions to water and soil. The effective extent of the emissions depends not only on the extent of the phosphorus flow through a sector but also on the nature and efficiency of the production processes.

The indicator "phosphorus flows" is based on substance accounting and substance flow analysis throughout the Flemish economy. In addition to the extent of the total substance flow in a sectoral node, the indicator shows the extent of the imports and exports at each node on the scale of Flanders. Imports are part of the total substance flow at the input side of the node. The food industry, for example, imports raw materials not only from neighbouring countries but also from Flemish agriculture. Exports are part of the total substance flow at the output side of the node (see figure below).

This indicator shows the activities that are at the origin of phosphate emissions in Flanders. Within the DPSIR framework, this indicator is situated at the level of the driving forces. The sector classification deviates from the classification used in the MIRA core set environmental data.
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D P S I R

Figures

Phosphorus flows, imports and exports per sectoral node (Flanders, 2009)

Source: VMM - MIRA
Data in Excel.


Progress

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.

More info

Phosphorus is emitted only to water and soil and a precise estimation of the emissions is included in the MIRA core set environmental data.

A description of the phosphorus flows is given in the abstract of the report Substance flow analysis for nitrogen and phosphorus in Flanders. The full report is available in Dutch on following link.

DPSI-R (de verstoringsketen)

De verstoringsketen is een veelgebruikt analysekader in de internationale milieurapportering. De keten schematiseert de oorzaken tot en met de gevolgen van de milieuproblemen.

Schakel 1 Driving forces (Maatschappelijke activiteiten) de onderliggende oorzaken van de milieuproblemen (productie, consumptie, transport, recreatie, enz.)
Schakel 2 Pressure (Druk) de directe oorzaken van de verstoringen brongebruik (energie, water, ruimte, grondstoffen) emissies (lozingen naar lucht, water en bodem, afval)
Schakel 3 State (Toestand) de resulterende toestand in lucht, water en bodem
Schakel 4 Impact (Impact) een inschatting van de negatieve gevolgen van de milieukwaliteit voor mens, natuur en economie
Schakel 5 Response (Respons) het (beleids)antwoord op deze verstoringen

Indicators



DPSIR-chain

The DPSI-R chain is a frequently used analysis framework in international environmental reporting. The DPSI-R chain outlines the causes to the impacts of environmental problems.

Link 1 Driving forces the underlying causes of environmental problems (production, consumption, transportation, recreation, etc.)
Link 2 Pressure the direct causes of the disturbances from resource use (energy, water, space, materials) and emissions (discharges to air, water and soil, waste)
Link 3 State the resulting state in air, water and soil
Link 4 Impact an estimate of the negative effects of the environmental quality for man, nature and economy
Link 5 Response the (policy) response to these disturbances

Indicatoren

positieve evolutie Positieve evolutie, met de doelstelling binnen bereik, of gunstige toestand.
onduidelijke evolutie Geen of beperkte evolutie, maar onvoldoende om de doelstelling te bereiken, of neutrale toestand.
negatieve evolutie Negatieve evolutie, verder weg van de doelstelling, of ongunstige toestand.
onvoldoende informatie beschikbaar Onvoldoende informatie.
De toekenning van smileys is geen exacte wetenschap maar veeleer een expertoordeel. Het 'oormerken' van indicatoren houdt onmiskenbaar het gevaar in van te sterke vereenvoudiging. Daarom wil de smiley de lezer vooral aanzetten om de bijhorende indicatorbeschrijving te lezen.

Indicatoren

positieve evolutie Positieve evolutie, met de doelstelling binnen bereik, of gunstige toestand.
onduidelijke evolutie Geen of beperkte evolutie, maar onvoldoende om de doelstelling te bereiken, of neutrale toestand.
negatieve evolutie Negatieve evolutie, verder weg van de doelstelling, of ongunstige toestand.
onvoldoende informatie beschikbaar Onvoldoende informatie.
De toekenning van smileys is geen exacte wetenschap maar veeleer een expertoordeel. Het 'oormerken' van indicatoren houdt onmiskenbaar het gevaar in van te sterke vereenvoudiging. Daarom wil de smiley de lezer vooral aanzetten om de bijhorende indicatorbeschrijving te lezen.

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