Challenge Rules

Applicants must make either a new commitment or state an existing commitment that has yet to be achieved or publicized.

Commitments must exceed regulatory compliance requirements in pertinent jurisdiction(s).

Commitments must address at least one of the key phosphorus sustainability goals identified. Organizations may also petition to add additional goals, subject to review by Alliance staff.

Commitments must be SMART: Specific in aim, Measurable, Ambitious, Relevant to the Challenge goals, and Time-bound.

Commitments must include implementation, that is, commitments to R&D and innovation alone are ineligible. Implementation means that a technology or approach has reached market/rollout after pilot-scale or field trials.

Organizations must enter commitments about which progress can be reported on annually.

Broadly, commitments can address more efficient phosphorus use, its reuse/recycling, and mitigation of its losses to the environment, though additional themes appear within the goals. Where feasible, phosphorus removal or containment should be coupled to its reuse/recycling.

No commitment will be rejected without a clear explanation of the reasons for rejection and one opportunity for rebuttal by the applicant with subsequent reconsideration by the reviewers. (Review results will not be shared with anyone but the applicant.)

Challenge Goals

Excessive or inappropriate use of phosphorus fertilizers, mineral and organic, leads to phosphorus losses to surface waters. Steps must be taken to ensure that phosphorus inputs to land (cropland, grassland, forests, etc.) are appropriately matched to needs. Examples of activities falling under this goal include developing and implementing best management practices, precision agriculture techniques, nutrient management plans, soil treatments, new fertilizer products or fertilizing techniques, and crop varieties that demonstrably help exploit soil phosphorus more effectively.

Phosphorus that is not assimilated by animals in their diets is passed to their wastes, and phosphorus from these wastes too frequently makes its way to our waters, sometimes after it is applied to farmland. Examples of activities falling under this goal include using dietary supplements that improve the availability of organic phosphorus to animals and using low-pollution feeds in aquaculture.

Many forms of recycled phosphorus exist, including manure, biosolids, composts, digestates, struvite, etc. Their use can reduce the need for mined phosphorus, but they must be used sustainably. Examples of activities falling under this goal include dewatering and pelletizing biosolids and manure products to enable their transport out of overburdened watersheds, processing recycled nutrients to make products with better agronomic performance or more adapted to market needs, and sustainably applying fertilizers and amendments that contain recycled phosphorus content. Actions can also include improving the quality of such reuse or recycle streams, addressing contaminants, and processing to improve reuse or recycle value.

Animal and human wastes contain phosphorus that can be recovered and reused/recycled. Phosphorus can be extracted from these wastes through a wide array of biological, physical, and chemical processes, preferably for further use. Examples of activities falling under this goal include extracting struvite and other minerals from municipal wastewater and septic tanks and recovering nutrients from animal wastes as part of an integrated biogas production process.

From farm to plate, food is wasted and its phosphorus content is too. Examples of activities falling under this goal include efforts to reduce unharvested crops and unused or spoiled food and to recover nutrients from farm, food processing, and food wastes through composting or other means.

Excess phosphorus frequently contaminates waters and contributes to algal blooms and ecological dead zones. Examples of activities falling under this goal include those that seek to remediate polluted waters through the use of biological, physical, and chemical treatments.

A wide variety of industrial activities can generate phosphorus wastes that can be reduced or recovered. Examples of activities falling under this goal include recovering phosphorus from process waters, reducing spillage during the transport of phosphorus-containing materials, and collecting and processing of phosphorus-containing products after use. (Note: Food wastes and excrements are addressed by separate goals.)

Rainfall, snowmelt, drainage and irrigation water can convey phosphorus from land to waterways and, in doing so, contribute to algal blooms and ecological dead zones. Examples of activities falling under this goal include those that reduce soil erosion; that divert phosphorus-laden runoff and drainage from waterways; that reduce the phosphorus content of runoff and drainage from farms, cities, and other landscapes; and that treat such runoff and drainage to recover phosphorus.

Food consumption patterns can have major impacts on phosphorus demand. Examples of activities falling under this goal include substituting plant-based foods for meat and dairy at restaurants, schools, and food retail outlets, assessing and improving the phosphorus footprint of a food product, and modifying a company’s food product range to reduce its phosphorus footprint.

Phosphate rock is a finite natural resource, so efficient extraction of phosphorus and its conversion to products is essential. Examples of activities falling under this goal include improving phosphorus recovery rates, reducing contaminant levels during phosphate rock processing, and recovering phosphorus from low- and medium-grade ores and from phosphogypsum stacks.

How is achievement verified?

Participants who subject their commitments to third-party or second-party verification will be recognized as such on the platform upon submitting proof of verification to the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance. A small processing fee will be required for this review. Otherwise, there is no verification required, but commitments will be in the public record. In addition, any verified misrepresentation of prior achievement will bar the applicant from making future commitments under the Challenge.

Join the Challenge

All fields are mandatory. The same organization may state multiple commitments, but each commitment requires a new form to be submitted and reviewed.