An essential nutrient in the growth of plants, phosphorus (P) when found in excess, can runoff and contribute to algal blooms and fish kills.
NC boasts the largest integrated phosphate mine in the US located in Aurora NC. Worldwide, the phosphate mining industry is a $76 Billion industry.
Most mined phosphorus goes into making fertilizers. About 20% of applied phosphorus is taken up by plants leaving the remaining 80% available for runoff.
Planet Money recently produced a podcast on Phosphorus touching on its importance, scarcity, and market demand. It also talks about ways prolong it’s availability through recycling.
Turns out that phosphorus, while essential for plants, is also a recyclable element in human waste. Coming up with a solution that keeps the excess P from entering the water while prolonging the availability of the nutrient is a win-win. Applying the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (R3) mentality to phosphorus may help in the solution to nutrient pollution