Thursday, July 29, 2010

Peak Phosphorus May Follow Peak Oil

From Facebook:  David Brin - We  face a crisis in phosphorus, which Asimov called “life’s bottleneck.” The best deposits of phosphate rock, source of phosphorus for fertilizer, will be gone in 50 to 100 years. Yet we flush it away: human urine is an effective fertilizer when combined with wood ash, lessening the need for agricultural chemicals. We must begin to efficiently recycle/capture the phosphorus in wastewater.

The global demand for phosphate rock, a source of phosphorus for fertilizer, could outstrip supply in 20 years. To avert a future food crisis, researchers say, the world must shift away from mining phosphate rock and recycle more phosphorus from human and animal waste.

Here’s an excellent site: 15 Facts you absolutely need to know about phosphorus:
Phosphorus is essential to growing sufficient food to feed a burgeoning population. Three countries control 73% of the world’s known reserves of phosphate rock, with China and Morocco being major suppliers; Europe has virtually no reserves. The U.S. has reserves in Florida and North Carolina, which may be depleted in a few decades. Yet, there’s enormous overuse/waste of phosphorus; runoff of phosphorus in waterways causes algal blooms, which leave dead zones. It’s crucial to recapture/recycle phosphorus instead of flushing it away. Sweden is leading the way, developing new toilets to separate wastewater for agricultural use.

Pecunia non olet, Latin for “Money does not smell”, referred to the tax on urine instigated by Roman emperor Nero. Urine was collected in pots from public latrines, where it was sold for use by tanners and launderers; these buyers paid the urine tax. Later, Emperor Vespanius taxed the people using the public toilets. Urban mining of our wastes will be the wave of the future:,1518,690450-2,00.html

Urine contains abundant nitrogen, phosphorus & potassium. Tests showing that human urine is an effective fertilizer:


  1. I think the story is over-rated about running out of phosphorus. Most of the stories linked did NOT say "known sources". It's possible there may be phosphorus elsewhere and we have not found it.

    The very interesting thing is using "urine" to fertilize.

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