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Stewardship to tackle global phosphorus inefficiency: The case of Europe

Withers, Paul J. A., van Dijk, Kimo C., Neset, Tina-Simone S., Nesme, Thomas, Oenema, Oene, Rubæk, Gitte H., Schoumans, Oscar F., Smit, Bert, Pellerin, Sylvain
Ambio 2015 v.44 no.Supplement 2 pp. 193-206
aquatic environment, cost effectiveness, ecosystem services, ecosystems, food chain, food security, issues and policy, phosphorus, researchers, society, stakeholders, wastes, Europe
The inefficient use of phosphorus (P) in the food chain is a threat to the global aquatic environment and the health and well-being of citizens, and it is depleting an essential finite natural resource critical for future food security and ecosystem function. We outline a strategic framework of 5R stewardship (Re-align P inputs, Reduce P losses, Recycle P in bioresources, Recover P in wastes, and Redefine P in food systems) to help identify and deliver a range of integrated, cost-effective, and feasible technological innovations to improve P use efficiency in society and reduce Europe’s dependence on P imports. Their combined adoption facilitated by interactive policies, co-operation between upstream and downstream stakeholders (researchers, investors, producers, distributors, and consumers), and more harmonized approaches to P accounting would maximize the resource and environmental benefits and help deliver a more competitive, circular, and sustainable European economy. The case of Europe provides a blueprint for global P stewardship.