Securing resources for the future

With the new ExtraPhos®-method for the recovery of phosphorus Budenheim is setting a new benchmark in raw materials recycling. Recyclable waste materials are often nothing but secondary raw materials. Instead of disposing these, Budenheim’s target is recycling them with the ExtraPhos®-method and to re-introduce phosphorus into the nutrient cycle. With this “upcycling” we save global resources and help to secure the basis of our existence.

But how is all this supposed to work sustainably?

Using the patented ExtraPhos®-method we re-dissolve phosphorus out of sewage sludge. Sewage sludge is a by-product of wastewater treatment and contains a large quantity of valuable phosphorus. The re-dissolution is effected by a decrease in pH value caused by adding carbon dioxide. During the process the recyclable components contained in the sludge separate from the pollutants. The recovered phosphates are now available for re-introduction into the cycle of resources as they can be used for agricultural applications. The advantages of this new method are obvious: the only raw material used in this process is carbon dioxide, which can also be recycled. Besides, no additional thermal energy is needed. Thus, the method is climate-friendly and saves resources. The ExtraPhos®-method can be used in all sewage plants at low investment and operating costs. The resulting product is a phosphate fertiliser optimally suited for agricultural use.

Why we need to recover phosphorus

Phosphates are vital elements of all organisms. Almost 90% of the phosphates produced worldwide are nutritionally relevant as they are mostly used in fertilisers and thus secure food for plants, animals, and people. They are part of each DNA and thus indispensable for cell division and growth. According to the latest scientific knowledge phosphates cannot be replaced in their functionality by other substances. Phosphates are usually mined as phosphate rock. Depending on the future demand for phosphate, the development of the world population, and the quality of the phosphate rocks, estimates on when deposits will be completely exploited vary. Scientists say that conventional phosphate deposits will continue to cover our demand in phosphates for another 300 to 400 years.

But why do we recover phosphate from sewage sludge?

Via the food chain and the sewage system, phosphates get to the sewage plant and there into the sewage sludge. If the sewage sludge is not directly used in agriculture, the phosphorus they contain is lost. But future generations will also need phosphates as vital source of nutrients. The direct application of sludge onto fields is increasingly viewed critically by legislators, farmers, and the food industry due to the pollutants contained in the sewage sludge. Thus, a method to extract the phosphorus from the sewage sludge is required.

How far has Budenheim come with the ExtraPhos®-method?

After the completion of basic research and a three-year period of operating a technical test centre at Budenheim, the construction of a mobile pilot plant is ongoing. For a start, this will be operated at the sewage plant Mainz-Mombach. Budenheim is supported by the German Federal Environmental Foundation and the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The tests at the pilot plant will serve as a basis for the large-scale implementation in further municipal sewage plants.

With the sustainable and cost-effective ExtraPhos®-process, Budenheim is closing the existing gap in phosphorus recycling

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