Support phosphorus recycling policy with social life cycle assessment: A case of Japan

Heng Yi Teah*, Motoharu Onuki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Producing phosphorus (P) fertilizers with recycled P is desirable for efficient use of P resource. However, the current cost of P recycling facilities in Japan strongly discourages the government from adopting this practice. To expand consideration for a P recycling policy, the concept of social externality was introduced. Social issues, such as the violation of human rights in P mining in the Western Sahara, have been identified in recent studies; nevertheless, a systematic approach towards accountability was lacking. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to support a P recycling policy with a social life cycle assessment (SLCA) by contrasting the social impacts associated with mineral and recycled P fertilizers using the case study of Japan. We developed a framework based on the UNEP-SETAC SLCA Guidelines with a supplementary set of P-specific social indicators. The results showed that the marginal social impact associated with recycled P was much less relative to mineral P; however, even if we factored in the maximum recycling capacity, a mandate of P recycling policy in Japan would not mitigate the impacts significantly relative to the current situation because only 15% of P rocks could be substituted. In short, we showed that a semi-quantitative SLCA framework would be useful to communicate the wide spectrum of social impacts to policymakers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1223
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jul 12
Externally publishedYes


  • Phosphorus fertilizers
  • Phosphorus recycling
  • Social impact assessment
  • Social life cycle assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Support phosphorus recycling policy with social life cycle assessment: A case of Japan'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this