In this paper, phosphorus balances are calculated for the wastewater purification and sludge treatment stages for wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) applying Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal (EBPR). The possible P-recovery potential is then estimated and evaluated regarding different locations along the process of wastewater purification and sludge treatment, taking the different phosphorus bonding forms into account. Caused by the more favourable bonding forms in the excess sludge as well as possibly also in the sludge ash a recovery of the phosphorus seems especially favoured for WWTPs with EBPR.
The processes available for a P recycling are named, and special regard is given to the Phostrip-process, which is a possible recycling process already tested in practice. Further R&D demand consists in basic research regarding disintegration, fermentation or acidic total digestion of excess sludge followed by phosphorus precipitation including separation of the precipitates, MAP-precipitation and separation from digested sludge and on the ability to extract phosphorus and heavy metals from sewage sludge ash. These investigations are a precondition to enable purposeful process developments.
At the present state the cost of recycled phosphorus earned from wastewater, sludge and ash, respectively, are a multiple higher than the costs for raw phosphate taking into account the suitable processes. Thus, up to now no phosphorus recycling with a defrayal of costs is possible. The future importance of phosphorus recycling will depend on the market price for raw phosphate, the recycling costs and, furthermore, on the general political framework.