Stewardship to tackle global phosphorus inefficiency: The case of Europe

P.J.A. Withers, K.C. van Dijk, T.S.S. Neset, Thomas Nesme, Oene Oenema, G.H. Rubæk, O.F. Schoumans, Bert Smit, Sylvain Pellerin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

112 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-206
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Europe
  • Eutrophication
  • Human health
  • Inefficiency
  • Phosphorus
  • Resources
  • Sustainability

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