Mapping Phosphorus Flows in the Ontario Economy

Phosphorus (P) is a non-renewable and non-substitutable resource with a wide range of applications. Canada relies heavily on foreign imports of P that have the potential to increase in price as supplies are depleted, pointing to a critical need to take proactive measures to ensure its sustainable use over the long-term. At the same time, excessive P in the environment contributes to dense populations or overgrowths of algae (i.e., algal blooms), which can have significant harmful effects on supporting ecosystems, including alteration of aquatic food chains, the production of toxins, an increase in infrastructure maintenance costs and eutrophication — oxygen depletion in a water body.

In 2021, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) provided funding so that Pollution Probe could lead the first provincial study of P flows through Ontario’s economy, in collaboration with Canadian academic experts on P and nutrient reuse and recovery (NRR) and their teams. The province of Ontario was chosen as an initial study area based on the complexity of its economy, the availability of data and its proximity to geographic locations facing significant challenges associated with P              (e.g., Lake Erie). 

This report is the result of work undertaken as part of this study. It highlights P inflows and outflows for Ontario’s provincial economy and explores specific sector flows of in greater detail. Report findings provide important insight into how P is used and where losses occur, a necessary first step for informing further discussions about the role for NRR technologies and solutions in reducing excess nutrients in receiving waterbodies, improving long-term food security and agricultural soil health, supporting nutrient-related economic growth and informing national and regional policy, regulation, standards development and investment in the NRR sector based on circular economy principles.

This project was undertaken with the financial support of:

Ce projet a été réalisé avec l’appui financier de: