Phosphate stewardship and ultimately recycling is one of the great challenges of humankind. Against this backdrop we propose a new value chain to recover phosphate from plant waste material (here press cake from rape or sunflower seeds) and to convert it to polyphosphates of industrial value. The approach is based on naturally occurring enzymes (phytase) that free the phosphate bound in an organic form (mainly phytate in oilseeds) and microbes that effectively collect the soluble phosphate to store it as polyphosphate. These microbial super collectors will be harvested and the synthesized polyphosphate recovered. . Thereby, the currently implemented value chain of phosphate rock mining (mainly in North Africa), production of phosphoric acid, chemical synthesis of polyphosphates, and after use phosphate disposal into waste water, rivers and finally into the ocean will be extended and in the long run disrupted. Phosphate rock comes with heavy metals like cadmium and radioactive uranium. The resource intensive purification of the phosphate for polyphosphate applications can be avoided using the technologies of P-Eng.

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Figure 1

The challenges addressed in this project will be the efficient production of the enzyme mobilizing phosphate from plant residues, the collection of free phosphate using microbes, and the economic viability, its ecological impact as well as market entry barriers and the therewith associated competitiveness of the novel approach (Figure 1).

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