Extracting phosphorus from dairy waste water

Extracting phosphorus from dairy waste water

The lettuce pot at far right is a control. The other pots were fertilized with various mixes of commercial phosphorus fertilizer or water treatment residue and dairy wastewater mix. There is an obvious difference in biomass and leaf length between the control and other treatments. | Oren Reuveni photo

New technology recycles disappearing essential nutrient to ensure that it doesn’t end up where it isn’t needed

Researchers in Israel have developed a way to create phosphorus fertilizer from dairy waste water. If implemented on a large scale, the process could help stretch Earth’s finite supply of phosphorus.

Scientists have warned about a disastrous shortage of phosphorus in 100 to 250 years unless we can find ways to recycle it. Phosphorus is a basic component in all life forms. Without it, nothing grows or survives.

As a side benefit of the process, the researchers take the phosphorus from the dairy waste water and combine it with aluminum that’s left over from making clean drinking water.

“The material left after purification is called aluminum water treatment residue, and it’s normally taken to a landfill to be buried,” said Michael Litaor, lead researcher on the project from Tel Hai College and MIGAL Institute.

We changed this material by mixing it with dairy wastewater rich with phosphorus and organic matter. It can be just as good as common fertilizers.”