Phosphorus removal from livestock effluents: recent technologies and new perspectives on low-cost strategies

  • Sara Zangarini
  • Tommy Pepè SciarriaEmail author
  • Fulvia Tambone
  • Fabrizio Adani
Review Article


Phosphorus is an essential element in the food production chain, even though it is a non-renewable and limited natural resource, which is going to run out soon. However, it is also a pollutant if massively introduced into soil and water ecosystems. This study focuses on the current alternative low-cost technologies for phosphorus recovery from livestock effluents. Recovering phosphorus from these wastewaters is considered a big challenge due to the high phosphorus concentration (between 478 and 1756 mg L−1) and solids content (> 2–6% of total solids). In particular, the methods discussed in this study are (i) magnesium-based crystallization (struvite synthesis), (ii) calcium-based crystallization, (iii) electrocoagulation and (iv) biochar production, which differ among them for some advantages and disadvantages. According to the data collected, struvite crystallization achieves the highest phosphorus removal (> 95%), even when combined with the use of seawater bittern (a by-product of sea salt processing) instead of magnesium chloride pure salt as the magnesium source. Moreover, the crystallizer technology used for struvite precipitation has already been tested in wastewater treatment plants, and data reported in this review showed the feasibility of this technology for use with high total solids (> 5%) livestock manure. Furthermore, economic and energetic analyses here reported show that struvite crystallization is the most practicable among the low-cost phosphorus recovery technologies for treating livestock effluents.


Phosphorous recovery Struvite Livestock treatment By-product reuse 



cation exchange capacity




heated retention time


magnesium ammonium phosphate


minimum theoretical equivalent diameter


seawater bittern


Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive


Funding information

This project was supported by “Systemic large scale eco-innovation to advance circular economy and mineral recovery from organic waste in Europe (SYSTEMIC)” project number: 730400-2, funded by EU within H2020 Call: H2020-IND-CE-2016-17 (Industry 2020 in the Circular Economy).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Gruppo Ricicla, Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie e AmbientaliUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanoItaly

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