Transfer of knowledge and building a ‘phosphorus responsible society’
Phosphorus (P), due to its high environmental, economic and social importance is considered as one of the strategical resources on Earth. It is currently listed as Critical Raw Material for the European economy, due to its limited resources in Europe and almost complete dependence on imports from non-EU countries. This means that its sustainable use is crucial for maintaining the security of its flow and supplies in the EU.
In recent years, much attention has been paid to the circular management of phosphorus in the Baltic Sea Region (e.g. the HELCOM initiative). However, other regions of Europe should also take action to promote the sustainable use of P in agriculture and the recovery of P from waste generated in the water and sewage sector.
An excellent example for activities that have a key impact on stimulating initiatives in the field of circular P management was the international project „InPhos – Sustainable Management of Phosphorus in Baltic countries” (EIT Raw Materials, Horizon 2020) conducted by the Mineral and Energy Economy Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences (MEERI PAS). The main objective of this project was to increase knowledge and awareness of importance of P in primary and secondary material flows for food production in the Baltic Sea region, and to build a ‘phosphorus responsible society’ in the region. MEERI PAS with project partners undertook a range of activities to implement a circular economy (CE) in the P-related sectors in this region. One of the examples were workshops, seminars and idea camps during which experts from MEERI PAS and the European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform (ESPP) presented various possibilities of sustainable P management in agriculture and P recovery from waste generated in the wastewater sector. These events attracted about one thousand stakeholders and experts and generating a positive impact on the implementation of CE in the region. The main project result “Strategy for sustainable P management in the Baltic Sea Region” will accelerate the implementation of P recovery in the Baltic Sea Region, increase independence from P imports, and ensure safety of food production during and after the COVID pandemic.
Noteworthy is also the transfer of knowledge by MEERI PAS to other regions in Europe, as the Visegrad Group (V4) countries – Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, by initiating the project " PhosV4 – How to stay alive in V4? Phosphorus Friends Club builds V4's resilience" (Visegrad Fund) coordinated by MEERI PAS. So far, these countries have had limited activity in the field of P recovery from wastes. The first online event "PhosV4 Workshop – Our Phosphorus Raw Materials. Our Food. Our Future – V4's resilience in the face of pandemic" has been held during the Green Deal 2021 Conference (8-10 December 2021, online). Almost 100 experts and students actively participated in this workshop. We are looking forward to seeing new circular initiatives and improved P stewardship in the region as an effect of this new project.