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Demand-Driven Model for Global Phosphate Rock Suggests Paths for Phosphorus Sustainability

  • David A. Vaccari*
    David A. Vaccari
    Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken 07030, New Jersey, United States
    *E-mail: [email protected]. Tel.: 201-216-5570.
  • Stephen M. Powers
    Stephen M. Powers
    Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164-6610, United States
  • , and 
  • Xin Liu
    Xin Liu
    School of the Environment, Nanjing University Lishui Institute of Ecology and Environment, Nanjing University, Nanjing 212200, China
    More by Xin Liu
Cite this: Environ. Sci. Technol. 2019, 53, 17, 10417–10425
Publication Date (Web):August 8, 2019
Copyright © 2019 American Chemical Society

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    Abstract Image

    Phosphorus is required as a fertilizer for producing food, and there is no substitute. Losses between mine production and diet result in significant environmental harm. We used a demand-driven substance flow model to explore the sensitivity of global phosphorus production to interventions of the food system including: reduction in animal fraction in the diet (AFD); manure use efficiency (MUE); animal food yield (YA); phosphorus use efficiency (PUE); the fraction of food that is wasted (FWF); the fraction of food waste recycled (FRE); and the fraction of human waste recycled (WRE). The model indicated that AFD and YA are the most influential interventions, and they interact with PUE and MUE. Furthermore, there is a minimum in AFD and YA below which it becomes necessary to increase mining. Another result is that reducing food waste is about 80 times more effective than recycling food waste in reducing P demand. Finally, the model was used to explore the global carrying capacity for humans on the basis of P sources other than mining. These sources may satisfy P requirements for as many as 2.5 billion people. If significant improvements were made in all of the considered interventions simultaneously, as many as 14.7 billion people could be sustained.

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    The Supporting Information is available free of charge on the ACS Publications website at DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.9b02464.

    • Introduction, model development and assumptions; results and discussion; references; additional Tables and Figures (PDF)

    • Excel file with the complete model used in this work (XLSX)

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