Phosphate is essential for all living cells and is a standard ingredient in conventional fertilisers, but it is also the least abundant of the major plant nutrients.
CIWEM claims that wastewater treatment could recover 95 per cent of phosphate from urban wastewater - the current EU average is 20 per cent - and favours applying sewage sludge to farmland to recycle the phosphate it contains.
It calls on all governments to follow the examples of Sweden and Germany and make phosphate recovery from urban wastewater a legal requirement.
CIWEM executive director Nick Reeves said: "To date, attention has focussed on removing phosphate from wastewater streams to prevent the eutrophication of waters. But phosphate is of huge strategic value over the longer term and we must also act to recover phosphate from waste-streams for use.
"The economics of extensive phosphate recovery from wastewater would be quite favourable if we viewed phosphorus as a resource, rather than the conventional approach of treating it as a pollutant in the environment, and mining it in mineral form to fertilise our crops."
The full CIWEM Policy Position Statement can be viewed here.
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