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Report Explores Feasibility of Phosphorus Recycling in Midwest

A report from the University of Illinois, published in the Journal of Environmental Quality, explored the feasibility of regional phosphorus recycling in the Midwest. Mined phosphorus is used as an agricultural fertilizer, and there is some concern about the longevity of these supplies. At the same time, phosphorus runoff from fields and phosphorus from livestock manure, ethanol and soybean processing, and wastewater poses a water-quality problem. The University of Illinois study found that phosphorus can be recovered from water and altered into a plant-accessible form, but the cost of doing so exceeds the current cost of mined phosphorus. Nonetheless, the researchers believe a circular phosphorus economy is ultimately feasible for the Midwest, noting that phosphorus trading schemes, similar to carbon credits, could be part of the solution, as water-quality concerns generate a willingness to pay for effective phosphorus capture and recycling.