An assessment of the drivers and barriers for the deployment of urban phosphorus recovery technologies: A case study of the Netherlands

Marissa A. de Boer*, Anjelika G. Romeo-Hall, Tomas M. Rooimans, J. Chris Slootweg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Phosphorus (P), being one of the building blocks of life, is essential for a multitude of applications, primarily for fertilizer usage. Sustainable management of phosphorus is becoming increasingly important in light of adverse environmental effects, ambiguous reserves, increasing global demand and unilateral dependence. Recovery of phosphorus from the biggest loss stream, communal wastewater, has the potential to tackle each of these problems. The implementation of phosphorus recovery technologies at wastewater treatment plants is not widespread, despite prolonged efforts primarily done by researchers over the past decade. This study aimed to assess the drivers and barriers of a phosphorus recovery transition. Several key stakeholders involved in this transition in The Netherlands were interviewed. The Netherlands was taken as a case study, since it serves as a frontrunner in the implementation of phosphorus recovery technologies. This study shows that themain barriers from the point of view of fertilizer companies are the different and unclear characteristics of the phosphorus recovery product struvite compared to common fertilizers. Moreover, the end-of-waste status of struvite is mentioned as a prominent barrier for a phosphorus transition, since it hinders free market trade. Many water boards indicate that the main barrier is the high investment cost with an uncertain return on investment for onsite struvite recovery processes. The specifiedmain driver forwater boards for onsite struvite phosphorus recovery technology is the reduction of maintenance costs, and for phosphorus recovery from sewage sludge ash, the low organic pollutant in the P recovery product.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1790
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2018


  • Circular nutrient economy
  • Drivers and barriers
  • Phosphorus recovery
  • Socio-technical transitions
  • Wastewater treatment plant


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