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Publication# Transition of the Swiss Phosphorus System towards a Circular Economy — Part 1: Current State and Historical Developments

Abstract

Current phosphorus (P) use in European countries is highly dependent on mineral P imports and not sustainably managed. In order to identify and implement measures for sustainable P management, a comprehensive understanding of national P flows and stocks and their temporal dynamics is essential. We conduct a substance flow analysis (SFA) of the Swiss P system of the year 2015, and study the dynamics of the national P system by looking into its development since 1989. Furthermore, we investigate how political-legislative interventions affected the P system during this period. The results show that between 1989 and 2015, the P efficiency in Swiss agriculture increased from 59% to 94%, mainly due to a considerable reduction of fertilization in the agricultural subsystem. At the same time, Switzerland's P import dependency decreased from 33% to 24% between 1989 and 2002 because of a reduction of mineral fertilizer import and use. Between 2002 and 2015, the import dependency stagnated because further improvements in P use efficiency in agriculture were outweighed by a decrease of P recycling and an increase of P losses in the waste management system. By embedding these temporal dynamics in their political-legislative context, we found that top-down interventions such as incentives for a balanced nutrient budget in agriculture, restrictions of the use of animal by-products in the agri-food system or the ban of direct sewage sludge recycling in agriculture significantly affected and shaped the national P system. Our analysis provides profound quantitative and qualitative insights into past and present P management in Switzerland and is followed by part 2 of the paper, where we analyze possible future pathways of P management.

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Phosphorus

Phosphorus is a chemical element with the symbol P and atomic number 15. Elemental phosphorus exists in two major forms, white phosphorus and red phosphorus, but because it is highly reactive, phospho

Agriculture

Agriculture encompasses crop and livestock production, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry for food and non-food products. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilizati

System

A system is a group of interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its

This work presents a synthesis method that leads to the preliminary design of industrial energy systems. Such systems are composed of several technologies that transform, through a set of physical unit operations, raw materials and energy into products and energy services. The purpose of the preliminary synthesis is to define which technologies form the system, to calculate their technical characteristics, their operating conditions and their interactions, based on performance indicators such as for example the cost of the system or its environmental impact. This area is studied since a long time and many synthesis approaches are available. However, these methods have significant limitations, particularly in their ability to face the study of more and more complex systems. The main goal of the method presented in this work is to enable the study of large systems and promote the use of the experience gained from previous studies in the form of models and methodological approaches. The synthesis method of industrial energy systems is based on the overall system optimization using a model that is obtained by assembling several modules, representing each a set of physical unit operations and whose equations are formulated with the black box technique, and an integration model that can represent the possible interactions within the system. Optimization is performed using a multi-objective evolutionary algorithm, whose objective functions are defined on the basis of calculation of several performance indicators based on the model of the system. To simplify the resolution of this complex system, the optimization problem is decomposed into a master problem, responsible for calculating the characteristics of the units and their operating conditions, and an optimization slave subproblem, which selects the units being part of the system and their interconnections. To ensure its robustness, the slave subproblem is formulated as a mixed-integer linear optimization problem. The slave subproblem is formulated by using process integration techniques, which are extended in this work to allow the synthesis of multiple heat and mass transfer networks. The synthesis problem can thus be defined using an explicit superstructure or by one generated automatically, either implicit or explicit. This work also introduces a technique that greatly reduces the number of degrees of freedom of the integration model. Instead of separately optimizing each ΔTmin/2 associated with heat streams, a formula is applied to calculate their value from a reference case. The ΔTmin/2 optimization is thus reduced to the optimization of a single decision variable related to the reference case, regardless of the size of the problem. The proposed method uses a set of heterogeneous elements, including flowsheeting software for modeling physical unit operations, mathematical programming tools for the formulation of the integration problem, methods for calculating performance indicators and calculation tools such as the optimization algorithm. This work introduces new tools developed to systematically apply the proposed methodology and to automate recurring operations of data transfer and the call of the various used software. In particular, a syntax description is defined as an abstraction layer to describe and to structure the exchanged information. A computing platform has been created to support the application of the method and to ensure the data transfer between its components. Two case studies are presented to illustrate the various aspects of the synthesis method. A first case, involving the synthesis of two combined cycles, has been chosen to illustrate the different application stages of the method and to show the potential reuse of certain modules. Through the integration techniques, it has been possible to identify potential heat recovery that can increase the performance of one of the cycles beyond what had been expected by experts using conventional simulation techniques. The second case study is about the treatment of waste generated by an industrial site active in the field of fine chemicals. Waste treatment can recover different materials and energy services useful for process units, thereby reducing the quantities purchased in the market. The model of multi-network integration can easily solve the complexity of the problem of waste management in developing strategies for allocating waste to the various treatments available for different objective functions related to operating costs and environmental impact.

We study the evolution of a system composed of N non-interacting particles of mass m distributed in a cylinder of length L. The cylinder is separated into two parts by an adiabatic piston of a mass M ≫ m. The length of the cylinder is a fix parameter and can be finite or infinite (in this case N is infinite). For the infinite case we carry out a perturbative analysis using Boltzmann's equation based on a development of the velocity distribution of the piston in function of a small dimensionless parameter ε = √(m/M). The non-stationary case is solved up to the order ε ;; our analysis shows that the system tends exponentially fast towards a stationary state where the piston has an average velocity V. The characteristic time scale for this relaxation is proportional to the mass of the piston (τ0 = M/A where A is the cross-section of the piston). We show that for equal pressures the collisions of the particles induce asymmetric fluctuations of the velocity of the piston which leads to a macroscopic movement of the piston in the direction of the higher temperature. In the case of the finite model a perturbative approach based on Liouville's equation (using the parameter α = 2m/(M + m)) shows that the evolution towards thermal equilibrium happens on two well separated time scales. The first relaxation step is a fast, deterministic and adiabatic evolution towards a state of mechanical equilibrium with approximately equal pressures but different temperatures. The movement of the piston is more or less damped. This damping qualitatively depends on whether the ratio R = Mgas/M between the total mass of the gas and the mass of the piston is small (R < 2) or large (R > 4). The second part of the evolution is much slower ; the typical time scales are proportional to the mass of the piston. There is a stochastic evolution including heat transfer leading to thermal equilibrium. A microscopic analysis yields the relation XM(t) = L(1/2 - ξ(at)) where the function ξ is independent of M. Using the hypothesis of homogeneity (i.e. the values of the densities, pressures and temperatures at the surface of the piston can be replaced by their respective average values) introduced in the previous analysis the observed damping does not show up. This can be explained by shock waves propagating between the piston and the walls at the extremities of the cylinder. In order to study the behaviour of the system there is hence a need to adequately describe the non-equilibrium fluids around the piston. We carry out an analysis of the infinite case, based on the perturbative approach introduced earlier. In this case the initial conditions are chosen in such a manner that the piston on average stays at the origin. It is shown that it is possible to describe the evolution of the fluids in such a way that it is coherent with the two laws of thermodynamics and the phenomenological relationships. Finally we study the case of a constant velocity of the piston in a finite cylinder. Such a condition and elastic collisions allow us to derive an explicit expression for the distribution of the fluids and hence for the hydrodynamics fields. This expression reveals the presence of shock waves between the piston and the extremities of the cylinder.

Claudia Rebeca Binder Signer, Jonas Ramon Mehr

A transition towards a circular economy of phosphorus (P) in Switzerland is a multi-faceted challenge as P use is subject to a variety of influencing factors comprising policy interventions, consumption trends, or technological innovations on different spatial scales. Therefore, scenarios for P use that take into account both the social and the technical dimension of change are needed for investigating possible pathways of a transition towards more sustainable P futures. Drawing on the multi-level perspective of transition theory, we develop scenarios on the landscape level, i.e., a balanced and healthy human diet, on the regime level, i.e., P recovery from sewage sludge (ash) and meat and bone meal, and on the niche level, i.e., urine separation. Based on the P system of the year 2015, we assess the quantitative implications of the scenarios for the Swiss P system. While scenario 1 mainly affects the agricultural system by reducing the overall P throughput, scenario 2 significantly changes P use in waste management, because P losses to landfills and cement plants decrease and the production of secondary P increases. Scenario 3 shows little quantitative impact on the national P system. From a qualitative transition perspective, however, urine separation entails fundamental socio-technical shifts in the wastewater system, whereas P recovery from sewage sludge (ash) represents an incremental system adaptation. The combination of flow- and transition-oriented research provides more general insights into how a circular economy of P can be reached. Furthermore, the analysis of P recycling scenarios reveals that transition processes in Switzerland are embedded in a global resource economy. Thus, a sole focus on concepts of national P self-sufficiency and the reduction of Switzerland's P import dependency tend to fall short when analysing the economisation of secondary P materials in the face of transnational resource flows and markets.

2018