Phosphorus is one of the most commonly found constituents of commercial fertilizers. Concentrations of the element in waste waters increase mainly due to agricultural run off. When in high quantities, phosphorus causes algal blooms and therefore it is removed through biological and chemical treatments before the waste water is brought back in the environment.
The typical and most widely applied approach to removing phosphorus is the so-called enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR), where a group of bacteria is introduced to the water to accumulate the excess polyphosphates.
CSIRO’s approach is based on the already existing technique, however they focused on the unique feature of these bacteria to transport phosphorus from a diluted waste water stream to a concentrated recovery one. The recovery stream does not enter the environment.