14:38 06 November 2013
In Slough, a new £2 million nutrient-recovery reactor, which is the first of its kind in Europe, is now being used in converting waste materials into environmental-friendly fertilizer. Experts claim could help secure future global food supplies.
The sewage treatment plant produces high-grade phosphorus-based fertiliser, which is vital for the growth of crops. A Thames Water spokesman confirmed that UK uses 138,000 of phosphate fertiliser every year, which is imported from abroad.
The spokesman stated: “Mineable reserves of phosphorus, in countries like Morocco, the US and China, are set to be completely depleted in 100 years, according to some experts, while others say "peak phosphorus" will occur as early as the mid-2030s, after which it is expected to become increasingly scarce and expensive.
'This adds to the costs, not to mention the reliance on external sources for such a vital resource, which is used to produce all food consumed by human beings.”
Meanwhile, Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association, said: “With the world's affordable mineable reserves of phosphorus set to start running out in the next 20 to 30 years, this new technology could offer a solution to securing global food supplies over the coming decades.
“Without fertilisation from phosphorus, wheat crop yields will fall by more than half. Meanwhile, as the planet's population is predicted to hit nine billion by 2050, demand for food will increase.
“Sustainable alternative sources of phosphorus, like this reactor at Slough sewage works, are vital if we are to keep pace with this demand.”
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