September 21, 2016
According to Senior Sustainability Scientist Matt Scholz, "Phosphorus is essential to life. It’s in your bones and it’s in your DNA, and it’s the energy currency for the cell."
It follows, then, that agriculture depends on phosphorus too. In fact, a large percentage of the element – typically mined in Morocco – is put into fertilizers used on farms throughout the world. The bad news is that the phosphorus-rich runoff from these farms contaminates waterways and can cause algal blooms, which stifle other forms of life.
The Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance – an ASU initiative that Scholz now manages – strives to collect and recycle phosphorus before it reaches waterways. The hope is to make the phosphorus system cyclical by extracting the element from waste and selling it back to fertilizer companies, eliminating the reliance on a finite supply from other countries.