Electrochemical Recovery of Phosphorus from Acidic Cheese Wastewater: Feasibility, Quality of Products, and Comparison with Chemical Precipitation

Lei, Yang; Zhan, Zhengshuo; Saakes, Michel; Weijden, Renata D. Van Der; Buisman, Cees J.N.


The recovery of phosphorus (P) from high-strength acidic waste streams with high salinity and organic loads is challenging. Here, we addressed this challenge with a recently developed electrochemical approach and compared it with the chemical precipitation method via NaOH dosing. The electrochemical process recovers nearly 90% of P (∼820 mg/L) from cheese wastewater in 48 h at 300 mA with an energy consumption of 64.7 kWh/kg of P. With chemical precipitation, >86% of P was removed by NaOH dosing with a normalized cost of 1.34–1.80 euros/kg of P. The increase in wastewater pH caused by NaOH dosing triggered the formation of calcium phosphate sludge instead of condensed solids. However, by electrochemical precipitation, the formed calcium phosphate is attached to the electrode, allowing the subsequent collection of solids from the electrode after treatment. The collected solids are characterized as amorphous calcium phosphate (ACP) at 200 mA or a precipitation pH of ≥9. Otherwise, they are a mixture of ACP and hydroxyapatite. The products have sufficient P content (≤14%), of which up to 85% was released within 30 min in 2% citric acid and a tiny amount of heavy metals compared to phosphate rocks. This study paves the way for applying electrochemical removal and recovery of phosphorus from acidic P-rich wastewater and offers a sustainable substitute for mined phosphorus.