Struvite precipitation is a well-documented method for recovering up to 98% of phosphorus from urine, which is one of the main nutrients in fertilizers besides nitrogen and potassium. Shortcomings of this process, however, are the low nitrogen recovery ratio and the possible uptake of pharmaceuticals from urine. In this work, the NH4 + adsorbent materials biochar and zeolite are coupled with struvite precipitation to increase the N-recovery of struvite from 5.7% to 9.8%. Since nitrogen is one of the main nutrients in fertilisers, this increase is of significance for its potential commercial use. In addition, urine is spiked with pharmaceuticals to measure the consequential uptake in struvite-based fertilisers and crops afterwards. Five fertilisers are prepared by nutrient recovery from spiked urine using: (1) struvite crystallisation, (2) struvite crystallisation combined with N adsorption on zeolite, (3) struvite crystallisation combined with N adsorption on biochar, (4) N adsorption on zeolite without struvite crystallisation, and (5) N adsorption on biochar without struvite crystallisation. The fertiliser with the highest purity product and the lowest uptake of pharmaceuticals was struvite combined with zeolite. Next, the contaminated struvite-sorbent fertilisers are tested in a crop trial in which the bioaccumulation of pharmaceuticals in edible plant tissue (tomatoes) is measured. This bioaccumulation in tomato fruit biomass from each of the spiked fertilisers in the crop trial was found to be lower than 0.0003% in all cases, far below the acceptable daily intake (ADI) levels (750 kg of dry tomatoes should be consumed per day to reach the ADI limit). Consequently, the subsequent risk to human health from tomato fruit grown using urine derived struvite-sorbent fertilisers is found to be insignificant.
- Nutrient recovery
- Pharmaceutical micro-pollutant