The Phosphorus Sustainability Challenge

How can your operations use phosphorus more efficiently and release less to water? At its annual forum April 5th in Washington, DC, the Phosphorus Sustainability Alliance announced the Phosphorus Sustainability Challenge, a call to action for organizations of any size and type to publicly commit to lower their phosphorus footprints. Wastewater treatment and biosolids management are opportunities for phosphorus recycling.

Through this challenge, the Alliance and its many stakeholders (including NEBRA) are raising awareness about the role of phosphorus in global food security and water quality. This is the conundrum: as a key ingredient in fertilizer and animal feed, a sustainable phosphorus supply is essential to meeting the growing global demand for food. Meanwhile, phosphorus is a devastating pollutant that degrades water quality in rivers, streams, lakes and coastal oceans.

Many organizations work hard to make phosphorus (P) use more sustainable. The Phosphorus Sustainability Challenge provides a platform where they will receive public recognition for their leadership and see how their own efforts contribute to larger scale sustainability impacts. Businesses in particular use the Challenge as one of their metrics for measuring advances in sustainable operations.

Commitments can be submitted online on the challenge website: https://psustainabilitychallenge.org/.

Matt Scholz, Program Manager at the Alliance, explained at the forum that there is no P yet in any corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports. Such reports are used by shareholders, the media, consumers, and the public to assess the sustainable practices of corporations. Goals are created by societal pressures on companies in relation to sustainability metrics. Currently, there are nearly 4000 corporate sustainability goals defined, including, for example 1,246 related to climate change, 133 on deforestration and paper, and 28 for VOC emissions. But there are no goals yet related to P. Yet “P is the most important pollutant of our most important natural resource & commodity (fresh water),” said Scholz.

James Elser, Director of the Sustainable P Alliance, facilitated the annual P forum at which Matt Scholz introduced the P Sustainability Challenge.

James Elser, Director of the Sustainable P Alliance, facilitated the annual P forum at which Matt Scholz introduced the P Sustainability Challenge.

For the Challenge, efforts should concentrate on several key phosphorus sustainability goals, including: using phosphorus more carefully in crop production and animal operations, sustainably recycling phosphorus, reducing food system waste, recovering phosphorus pollution from surface waters, removing phosphorus from human and animal waste streams, and improving the efficiency of phosphorus mining, among others. In the wastewater and biosolids management field, actions are underway and can be further advanced to reduce P discharges, recover concentrated P from wastewater and biosolids, and carefully manage P applied to land in biosolids and reclaimed water.

We urge all organizations to join the Phosphorus Sustainability Challenge and lead the charge towards improving phosphorus sustainability. Follow the conversation on social media using the hashtag: #PhosphorusChallenge.