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Dana Cordell


Dr Dana Cordell is a Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Research Principal at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney. Her research contributions to the emerging field of global phosphorus scarcity and security has led to numerous prestigious recognitions including one of Australia’s top science prizes – the Eureka Prize for Environmental Research 2012 and a position in the 2012 Top 100 Most Influential People (Sydney Magazine) together with Professor White.

She co-founded the Global Phosphorus Research Initiative (GPRI) and public website www.phosphorusfutures.net in 2008 with colleagues in Sweden and Australia, as an outcome of her doctoral research on the 'Sustainability implications of global phosphorus scarcity for food security', which she undertook jointly at the Institute for Sustainable Futures and Linköping University in Sweden. The GPRI has since expanded to represent six leading research institutes across Europe, Australia and North America and most recently attracted 1995 Nobel Prize laureate Professor Paul Crutzen as the GPRI’s first Ambassador. In addition to facilitating transdisciplinary research on global phosphorus security, the GPRI aims to facilitate networking and awareness-raising among policy makers, industry, other scientists and the public regarding sustainable phosphorus use and food security.

Dana also has 12 years of sustainability research experience leading and undertaking interdisciplinary sustainable water, sanitation, food and waste management projects, many of which involved high-level stakeholder engagement in the research process to improve the societal relevance of the research outcomes and foster mutual-learning.

Image of Dana Cordell
Chancellor's Post Doctoral Research Fellow, Institute for Sustainable Futures
Core Member, Institute for Sustainable Futures
BE(Eng)(Hons1)(UNSW), MSc (LiU), PhD (LiU), PhD (UTS)
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+61 2 9514 4942


Langridge, P., Cordell, D.J. & D'Occhio, M. 2014, 'Agriculture in Australia: growing more than our farming future', The Conversation.
Australia 2025: How will science address the challenges of the future? In collaboration with Australia's chief scientist Ian Chubb, we're asking how each science discipline will contribute to Australia now and in the future. Written by luminaries and accompanied by two expert commentaries to ensure a broader perspective, these articles run fortnightly and focus on each of the major scientific areas. In this final instalment, we examine our agricultural legacy.
Cordell, D.J. & White, S. 2014, 'Lifes Bottleneck: Sustaining the Worlds Phosphorus for a Food Secure Future' in Gadgil, A. & Liverman, D.M. (eds), Annual review of environment and resources, Annual Reviews, pp. 161-188.
Cordell, D.J. 2013, 'Global phosphorus scarcity and the role of sanitation systems in achieving food security' in Larsen, T.A., Udert, K.M. & Lienert, J. (eds), Source Separation and Decentralization for Wastewater Management, IWA Publishing, United Kingdom, pp. 29-44.
Childers, D., Capale, Z., Carlielle-Marquet, C., Cordell, D.J., Gerhart, V., Iwaniec, D. & White, S. 2013, 'Future scenarios for the sustainable use of global Phosphorus resources: P is for preferred (p) futures' in Wyant, K.A., Corman, J.R. & Elser, J.J. (eds), Phosphorus, Food, and Our Future, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, pp. 183-198.
Neset, T.S., Cordell, D.J. & Andersson, L. 2013, 'The flow of phosphorus in food production and consumption system' in Renegel, Z. (ed), Improving Water and Nutrient-Use Efficiency in Food Production Sysytems, John Wiley & Sons, New York, pp. 79-92.
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Phosphorus is a crucial nutrient for the production of food, but at the same time it is a key contributor to eutrophication of aquatic environments through leakage and runoff from agricultural land. Hence, sustainable future pathways of phosphorus use in food production and consumption need to consider a variety of sectors. This chapter discusses the sustainability challenges associated with the use of phosphorus in global and regional food production and consumption systems. It focuses on the limited future availability of phosphorus for agricultural use, in part due to its inefficient utilisation throughout the chain of food production and consumption, with consequences for water quality, including regional examples. In a global sustainability context, future research and policy will need to consider synergies between sustainable phosphorus use measures and other global challenges, including climate change, water scarcity and pollution.
Mitchell, C.A., Fam, D.M. & Cordell, D.J. 2011, 'Effectively managing the transition towards restorative futures in the sewage industry: a phosphorus case study' in Howe, C. & Mitchell, C. (eds), Water Sensitive Cities, IWA Publishing, UK, pp. 43-62.
Today's urban water managers are faced with an unprecedented set of issues that call for a different approach to urban water management. These include the urgent changes needed to respond to climate change, population growth, growing resource constraints, and rapidly increasing global urbanization. Not only are these issues difficult to address, but they are facing us in an environment that is increasingly unpredictable and complex. Although innovative, new tools are now available to water professionals to address these challenges, solving the water problems of tomorrow cannot be done by the water professionals alone. Instead, the city of the future, whether in the developed or developing world, must integrate water management planning and operations with other city services to meet the needs of humans and the environment in a dramatically superior manner. This book has been developed from selected papers from 2009 Singapore Water Week Planning for Sustainable SolutionsA and also papers taken from other IWA events. It pulls together material that supports the water professionals' need for useful and up-to-date material.
Cordell, D.J. & Rosemarin, A. 2011, 'Det behvs en global fosforkonvention' in Johansson, R.B. (ed), tervinna fosfor - hur brttom r det?, Forskningsrdet Formas, Sweden, pp. 55-74.
Bekunda, M., Cordell, D.J., Corman, J., Rosemarin, A., Salcedo, I., Syers, K. & Lougheed, T. 2011, 'Phosphorus & food production' in Goverse, T. & Bech, S. (eds), UNEP Yearbook 2011: Emerging Issues in our Global Environment, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Division of Early Warning and Assessment, Nairobi, Kenya, pp. 35-46.
Drangert, J. & Cordell, D.J. 2010, 'Module 5.1. Phosphorus: food security and food for thought (learning material for training of professionals in the sanitation and water sector).' in Drangert, J.O. (ed), Sustainable Sanitation for the 21st Century, Swedish Uni of Agricultural Sceinces, Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control and Vatema, Sweden, pp. 1-13.
A sourcebook and a set of powerpoints. Support material for training of professionals in the sanitation and water sector.


Fam, D.M., Cordell, D.J. & Mitchell, C.A. 2013, 'Beginning at the end: The curious case of the TD outcome spaces'.
Cordell, D.J. 2013, 'Phosphorus security: Increasing the resilience of food systems to the multi-dimensional challenge of global phosphorus scarcity'.
Cordell, D.J. 2012, 'Peak Phosphorus: Sustainable management of a critical global resource for food production', Proceedings of Rhizopolis, INRA (National Agricultural Research Institute), France.
Cordell, D.J. 2012, 'Global phosphorus security and food production', Proceedings of the Population Health Congress 2012, AEA, AFPHM, AHPA, PHAA (four host Australasian health organisations), Adelaide, Australia.
Cordell, D.J. 2012, 'Phosphorus in the food system: Challenges and opportunities', Proceedings of the 3rd Sustainable Phosphorus Summit, Global Phosphorus Research Initiative, Sydney, Australia.
Rosemarin, A., Schroder, J.J., Dagerskog, L., Cordell, D.J. & Smit, B.L. 2011, 'Future supply of Phosphorus in agriculture and the need to maximise efficiency of use and reuse', Proceedings 685: Paper presented to the International Fertiliser Society Conference 2010, International Fertiliser Society, Leek, UK, pp. 1-28.
White, S., Cordell, D.J., Herriman, J., Moore, D.D., Gero, A. & Mason, L.M. 2011, 'Local government and landfill futures', Proceedings of ACELG's Local Government Researchers Forum 2011, Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG), Sydney, Australia, pp. 1-13.
Moore, D.D. & Cordell, D.J. 2011, 'Landfills: Sustainability costs and challenges of waste management'.
Cordell, D.J. 2011, 'Global phosphorus scarcity: Challenges and opportunities for food security'.
Rosemarin, A., Schroder, J.J., Dagerskog, L., Cordell, D.J. & Smit, B.L. 2011, 'Future supply of phosphorus in agriculture and the need to maximise efficiency of use and reuse', Proceedings of the International Fertiliser Society Meetings, International Fertiliser Society, Leek, UK, pp. 1-27.
Cordell, D.J. & White, S. 2010, 'Pathways to Phosphorus security: the long-term perspective', Phosphates 2010: Fertilizers, Industrial and Feed Phosphate Markets, British Sulphur Events, UK.
Neset, T.S. & Cordell, D.J. 2010, 'Phosphorus and global food security: a synthesis', Proceedings from the International Workshop on Phosphorus and Global Food Security, Department of Thematic Studies - Water and Environmental Studies, Linkoping University, Sweden, Linkoping, Sweden, pp. 1-58.
Cordell, D.J. 2010, 'Peak phosphorus: sustainable management of a critical resource for global food production', Proceedings of the International Forum for Adaptability Science II: Technologies for a Sustainable Society, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan.
Session 2, Sustainable agriculture under biotic and abiotic environmental changes
Cordell, D.J. & Neset, T.S. 2010, 'Peak phosphorus: global phosphoros scarcity and sustainable pathways to future food security', CropWorld Congress and Exhibition, UBM, London, UK.
Cordell, D.J. 2010, 'Peak phosphorus: Sustainable management if a critical resource for global food production'.
Cordell, D.J., Neset, T.S., White, S. & Drangert, J. 2009, 'Preferred future phosphorus scenarios: a framework for meeting long-term phosphorus needs for global food demand', International Conference on Nutrient Recovery from Wastewater Streams, IWA Publishing, London, UK, pp. 23-43.
This paper puts phosphorus recovery in a global sustainability context, with particular reference to future phosphate rock scarcity and global food security. While phosphorus fertilizers are essential for sustaining high crop yields, all modern agricultural systems currently rely on constant input of mined phosphate rock. However, phosphate rock, like oil, is a finite resource, and global production of high quality phosphate rock is estimated to peak by 2033, after which demand for phosphorus fertilizers will increasingly exceed supply. Phosphorus cannot be manufactured; though fortunately there are a number of technologies and practices that together could potentially meet long-term future phosphate fertilizer needs for global food demand. This paper develops probable, possible and preferred long-term scenarios for supply and demand-side measures. The preferred scenarios together demonstrate how substantial reduction in demand for phosphorus can be achieved, and how the remaining demand can be met through high recovery and reuse of organic sources like human and animal excreta (e.g. direct reuse, struvite crystals), crop residues, food waste and new sources like seaweed, ash, bonemeal and some phosphate rock.
Cordell, D.J. 2009, 'The story of phosphorus: Sustainability implications of phosphate scarcity on global food security', Avlopp and Kretslopp Conference, Avlopp and Kretslopp, Linkping, Sweden.
White, S. & Cordell, D.J. 2009, 'Pathways to phosphorus security: the long-term perspective', Australian Fertilizer Outlook conference, Australian Association of Agricultural Consultants WA Inc., Sydney, Australia.
Cordell, D.J. & Kohler, A. 2009, 'Proceedings from the 'Scarce elements supply and demand: Critical issues and implications for sustainable governance' Workshop', Proceedings from the 'Scarce elements supply and demand: Critical issues and implications for sustainable governance' Workshop, Institute for Sustainable Futures, Sydney, Australia.
Cordell, D.J. 2008, 'Phosphorus, food and 'messy' problems: A systemic inquiry into the management of a critical global resource', ANZSYS 2008, SECAU - Security Research Centre, Edith Cowan University, Perth, pp. 1-15.
This paper presents a process of systemic inquiry into the roles, relationships and perceptions in the management of phosphorus resources in the context of global food security. Phosphorus, like water, energy and nitrogen, is critical for food production. All modern food production and consumption systems are dependent on continual inputs of phosphate fertilizers derived from phosphate rock. Yet phosphate rock is a finite resource under the control of only a handful of countries - mainly China, Morocco and the US. Production of current global phosphate reserves could peak in 30 years, within decades of peak oil. Given this situation it is surprising that phosphorus is not considered a priority in the dominant discourses on global food security or global environmental change. Checkland's Soft Systems Methodology offers a framework to guide an inquiry or 'learning process' into the nature of the problem situation and system failure, incorporating results of an analysis of stakeholder interviews, a substance flows analysis and an institutional analysis. The soft systems inquiry reveals that not only is there no stakeholder consensus on the nature of the problem, there are no international institutional arrangements, much less an international organisation, responsible for monitoring and facilitating the long-term sustainability of phosphorus resources for food production. Further, without such an actor and associated institutional arrangements, there is no 'feedback loop' that can correct the system. Given the critical nature of phosphorus to all modern economies, this is a concerning finding and warrants further analysis, deliberation and enabling of change.
Cordell, D.J. 2008, 'The Story of Phosphorus: Missing global goverance of a critical resource - Preliminary findings from 2 years of doctoral research', SENSE Earth System Governance, Amsterdam, Netherlands, pp. 1-25.
Cordell, D.J. & Kerschner, C. 2007, 'Governing global resource peaks: the case of peak oil and peak phosphorus', Bratislava, Slovak Republic.
White, S., Cordell, D.J. & Turner, A.J. 2005, 'A single planning framework applicable to urban water management around the world: an international demand management framework', World Water Week.
Mitchell, C.A., Turner, A.J., Fane, S.A., White, S. & Cordell, D.J. 2004, 'Water conservation is dead: long live water conservation', Proceedings of 2nd IWA Leading-Edge Conference on Sustainability: Sustainability in Water-Limited Environments, IWA, London, UK, p. 53.
Cordell, D.J., Robinson, J. & Loh, M.T. 2003, 'Collecting residential end use data from primary sources: do's and dont's'.
This paper addresses the dos and donts of collecting primary (directly sourced) residential water end-use data based on experiences of the authors. Proper planning is fundamental. Insufficient consideration of important factors can affect the quality and usefulness of the data and in turn the model or outcome for which the data is being collected. Despite data collection often being perceived as a relatively simple process, many studies in the past have overlooked key considerations which can influence both the design of the study and the type of data collected. This paper provides a logical sequence of steps for guidance in clarifying data needs and understanding how it is best collected, based on four recent Australian case studies in Perth and Melbourne. Both the advantages and limitations of various techniques of collecting such data are described, as well as useful hints and practices to avoid. Also presented are ways to value add to the data collection study such that cost effectiveness, time and resource efficiency are improved and multiple outcomes are provided.

Journal articles

Metsona, G.S., Smith, V.H., Cordell, D.J., Vaccari, D.A., Elser, J.J. & Bennett, E.M. 2014, 'Phosphorus is a key component of the resource demands for meat, eggs, and dairy production in the United States', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 111, no. 46, pp. E4906-E4907.
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Mitchell, C., Cordell, D. & Fam, D. 2014, 'Beginning at the end: The outcome spaces framework to guide purposive transdisciplinary research', Futures.
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The framework presented in this paper offers an alternative starting point for transdisciplinary research projects seeking to create change. The framework begins at the end: it distinguishes three distinct 'transdisciplinary outcome spaces' and proposes articulating their content for purposive transdisciplinary research projects. Defining upfront the desired improvements has profound implications for how transdisciplinary research is conceived, designed, implemented and evaluated.Three key realms of transdisciplinary outcome spaces are distinguished - situation, knowledge, and learning - and elaborated: (1) an improvement within the 'situation' or field of inquiry; (2) the generation of relevant stocks and flows of knowledge, including scholarly knowledge and other societal knowledge forms, and making those insights accessible and meaningful to researchers, participants and beneficiaries; and (3) mutual and transformational learning by researchers and research participants to increase the likelihood of persistent change.Positioning the framework in the field of transdisciplinary literature reveals that much of the contestation concerning transdisciplinary research and practice may be attributable to the diverse but implicit ontological and epistemological perspectives inhabited by transdisciplinary researchers, leading to a call for more reflexive and explicit attention to these and other formative influences (i.e. sources of funding, project motivation, or locus of power).
Cordell, D.J. & White, S. 2014, 'Life's Bottleneck: Sustaining the World's Phosphorus for a Food Secure Future', Annual Review of Environment and Resources, vol. 39.
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Phosphorus security is emerging as one of the twenty-first century's greatest global sustainability challenges. Phosphorus has no substitute in food production, and the use of phosphate fertilizers in the past 50 years has boosted crop yields and helped feed billions of people. However, these advantages have come at a serious cost. Mobilizing phosphate rock into the environment at rates vastly faster than the natural cycle has not only polluted many of the world's freshwater bodies and oceans, but has also created a human dependence on a single nonrenewable resource. The 2008 phosphate price spike attracted unprecedented attention to this global situation. This review provides an updated and integrated synthesis of the biophysical, social, geopolitical, and institutional challenges and opportunities for food security. Remaining phosphorus resources are becoming increasingly scarce, expensive, and inequitably distributed. All farmers require fertilizers, yet a sixth of the world's farmers and their families are too poor to access fertilizer markets. Inefficient use of this fossil resource from mine to field to fork calls for substantial reduction in demand through efficiency and recycling. Phosphorus governance at global, regional, and local scales is required to stimulate and support context-specific sustainable strategies to ensure all the world's farmers have sufficient access to phosphorus to feed the world and ensure ecosystem integrity and farmer livelihoods.
Cordell, D.J. 2014, 'Towards phosphorus security for a food secure future', European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform SCOPE Newsletter.
Cordell, D.J., Jackson, M.L. & White, S. 2013, 'Phosphorus flows through the Australian food system: Identifying intervention points as a roadmap to phosphorus security', Environmental Science and Policy, vol. 29, no. 9, pp. 87-102.
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Global phosphorus scarcity is likely to threaten the world's ability to produce food in the future if concerted efforts to ensure long-term phosphorus availability and accessibility and to use phosphorus more sustainably in the food system are not taken by policy makers, scientists and industry. Each country is vulnerable to phosphorus scarcity in different ways due to different characteristics of the national food system. However numerous opportunities exist to steer countries on a more sustainable trajectory to buffer food systems against such risks. A country-level phosphorus flow analysis can aid the identification of current inefficiencies, potential points for phosphorus recovery, reduction in losses and facilitate prioritisation of policy measures. This paper presents the findings and implications of a phosphorus flow analysis for Australia. The analysis found that despite being a net food exporter (predominantly to Asia), Australia is a net phosphorus importer (80 kt/a of P) to replenish naturally phosphorus-deficient soils and support a phosphorus-intensive agricultural and livestock export sector. Simultaneously, there is a net phosphorus deficiency from the Australian food system (106 kt/a of P) due to substantial losses and inefficiencies from mine to field to fork. The livestock sector represents over 60% of Australia's phosphorus demand due to fertilised pastures and animal feed. The manure produced by the 211 million head of livestock in Australia alone contains 60 times more phosphorus than the food consumed by the entire Australian population. Key opportunities to increase the resilience of the Australian food system include: increasing manure reuse, phosphorus use efficiency in fertilised pastures, investigate phosphorus recovery from phosphogypsum waste stockpiles and investigating more phosphorus-efficient food and agricultural commoditiesparticularly to reduce exported and wasted phosphorus whilst maintaining or enhancing productivity.
Cordell, D.J. & White, S. 2013, 'Sustainable Phosphorus measures: Strategies and technologies for achieving Phosphorus security', Agronomy, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 86-116.
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Phosphorus underpins the worlds food systems by ensuring soil fertility, maximising crop yields, supporting farmer livelihoods and ultimately food security. Yet increasing concerns around long-term availability and accessibility of the worlds main source of phosphorusphosphate rock, means there is a need to investigate sustainable measures to buffer the worlds food systems against the long and short-term impacts of global phosphorus scarcity. While the timeline of phosphorus scarcity is contested, there is consensus that more efficient use and recycling of phosphorus is required. While the agricultural sector will be crucial in achieving this, sustainable phosphorus measures in sectors upstream and downstream of agriculture from mine to fork will also need to be addressed. This paper presents a comprehensive classification of all potential phosphorus supply- and demand-side measures to meet long-term phosphorus needs for food production. Examples range from increasing efficiency in the agricultural and mining sector, to technologies for recovering phosphorus from urine and food waste. Such measures are often undertaken in isolation from one another rather than linked in an integrated strategy. This integrated approach will enable scientists and policy-makers to take a systematic approach when identifying potential sustainable phosphorus measures. If a systematic approach is not taken, there is a risk of inappropriate investment in research and implementation of technologies and that will not ultimately ensure sufficient access to phosphorus to produce food in the future. The paper concludes by introducing a framework to assess and compare sustainable phosphorus measures and to determine the least cost options in a given context.
Herriman, J., Moore, D.D., Gero, A., Giurco, D., White, S., Mason, L.M. & Cordell, D.J. 2012, 'Living with waste: Australia's landfill future', Remediation Australasia, vol. 11.
May, D., Prior, T., Cordell, D. & Giurco, D. 2012, 'Peak Minerals: Theoretical Foundations and Practical Application', Natural Resources Research, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 43-60.
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This article reviews the theoretical foundations for the concept of peak minerals; drawing on similarities and differences with peak oil as modelled using Hubbert style curves. Whilst several studies have applied peak modelling to selected minerals, discussion of the appropriateness of using Hubbert style curves in the minerals context remains largely unexplored. Our discussion focuses on a comparison between oil and minerals, on the key variables: rates of discovery, estimates of ultimately recoverable resources and demand and production trends. With respect to minerals, there are several obstacles which complicate the application of Hubbert style curves to the prediction of future mineral production, including the lack of accurate discovery data, the effect of uncertain reserve estimates, and varying ore quality and quantity. Another notable difference is that while oil is often combusted during use, minerals are used to make metals which are inherently recyclable. Notwithstanding, by using a range of estimates of resources and/or reserves, a period of time can be identified which indicates when a peak in minerals production may occur. This information may then be used to plan for a transition from using a potentially constrained resource, to using substitutes if available, or to reducing demand for that mineral in society. 2011 International Association for Mathematical Geology.
Cordell, D.J., Neset, T.S. & Prior, T.D. 2012, 'The phosphorus mass balance: identifying 'hotspots' in the food system as a roadmap to phosphorus security', Current Opinion in Biotechnology, vol. 23, no. 6, pp. 839-845.
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Phosphorus is a critical element on which all life depends. Global crop production depends on fertilisers derived from phosphate rock to maintain high crop yields. Population increase, changing dietary preferences towards more meat and dairy products, and the continuing intensification of global agriculture supporting this expansion will place increasing pressure on an uncertain, but finite supply of high-quality phosphate rock. Growing concern about phosphorus scarcity and security, coupled with the environmental impact of phosphorus pollution, has encouraged an increase in research exploring how phosphorus is used and lost in the food system from mine to field to fork. An assessment of recent phosphorus flows analyses at different geographical scales identifies the key phosphorus `hotspots, for example within the mining, agriculture or food processing sectors, where efficiency and reuse can be substantially improved through biotechnological approaches coupled with policy changes
White, S. & Cordell, D.J. 2012, 'Time for policy action on global phosphorus security', The Conversation, vol. 1 March.
Neset, T.S. & Cordell, D.J. 2012, 'Global Phosphorus Scarcity: Identifying Synergies For A Sustainable Future', Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, vol. 92, no. 1, pp. 2-6.
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Global food production is dependent on constant inputs of phosphorus. In the current system this phosphorus is not predominantly derived from organic recycled waste, but to a large degree from phosphate-rock based mineral fertilisers. However, phosphate
Cordell, D.J., White, S. & Prior, T.D. 2011, 'Securing phosphorus: food for thought, and food for the future', The Conversation, vol. 8 Sep 2011.
Cordell, D.J., Rosemarin, A., Schroder, J.J. & Smit, B.L. 2011, 'Towards global phosphorus security: A systemic framework for phosphorus recovery and reuse options', Chemosphere, vol. 84, no. 6, pp. 747-758.
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Human intervention in the global phosphorus cycle has mobilised nearly half a billion tonnes of the element from phosphate rock into the hydrosphere over the past half century. The resultant water pollution concerns have been the main driver for sustainable phosphorus use (including phosphorus recovery). However the emerging global challenge of phosphorus scarcity with serious implications for future food security, means phosphorus will also need to be recovered for productive reuse as a fertilizer in food production to replace increasingly scarce and more expensive phosphate rock. Through an integrated and systems framework, this paper examines the full spectrum of sustainable phosphorus recovery and reuse options (from small-scale low-cost to large-scale high-tech), facilitates integrated decision-making and identifies future opportunities and challenges for achieving global phosphorus security. Case studies are provided rather than focusing on a specific technology or process. There is no single solution to achieving a phosphorus-secure future: in addition to increasing phosphorus use efficiency, phosphorus will need to be recovered and reused from all current waste streams throughout the food production and consumption system (from human and animal excreta to food and crop wastes). There is a need for new sustainable policies, partnerships and strategic frameworks to develop renewable phosphorus fertilizer systems for farmers. Further research is also required to determine the most sustainable means in a given context for recovering phosphorus from waste streams and converting the final products into effective fertilizers, accounting for life cycle costs, resource and energy consumption, availability, farmer accessibility and pollution.
Ashley, K., Cordell, D.J. & Mavinic, D. 2011, 'A brief history of Phosphorus: from the Philosophers Stone to nutrient recovery and re-use', Chemosphere, vol. 84, no. 6, pp. 737-746.
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The element phosphorus has no substitute in sustaining all life and food production on our planet. Yet todays phosphorus use patterns have resulted in both a global environmental epidemic of eutrophication and led to a situation where the future availability of the worlds main sources of phosphorus is uncertain. This paper examines the important history of human interference with the phosphorus cycle from initial discovery to present, highlighting key interrelated events and consequences of the Industrial Revolution, Sanitation Revolution and Green Revolution. Whilst these events led to profound advances in technology, public health and food production, they have fundamentally broken the global phosphorus cycle. It is clear a `Fourth Revolution is required to resolve this dilemma and ensure humanity can continue to feed itself into the future while protecting environmental and human health.
Schroder, J.J., Smit, B.L., Cordell, D.J. & Rosemarin, A. 2011, 'Improved phosphorus use efficiency in agriculture: a key requirement for its sustainable use', Chemosphere, vol. 84, no. 6, pp. 822-831.
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Mineral phosphorus (P) fertilizers processed from fossil reserves have enhanced food production over the past 50 years and, hence, the welfare of billions of people. Fertilizer P has, however, not only been used to lift the fertility level of formerly poor soils, but also allowed people to neglect the reuse of P that humans ingest in the form of food and excrete again as faeces and urine and also in other organic wastes. Consequently, P mainly moves in a linear direction from mines to distant locations for crop production, processing and consumption, where a large fraction eventually may become either agronomically inactive due to over-application, unsuitable for recycling due to fixation, contamination or dilution, and harmful as a polluting agent of surface water. This type of P use is not sustainable because fossil phosphate rock reserves are finite. Once the high quality phosphate rock reserves become depleted, too little P will be available for the soils of food-producing regions that still require P supplements to facilitate efficient utilization of resources other than P, including other nutrients. The paper shows that the amounts of P applied in agriculture could be considerably smaller by optimizing land use, improvement of fertilizer recommendations and application techniques, modified livestock diets, and adjustment of livestock densities to available land. Such a concerted set of measures is expected to reduce the use of P in agriculture whilst maintaining crop yields and minimizing the environmental impact of P losses. The paper also argues that compensation of the P exported from farms should eventually be fully based on P recovered from `wastes, the recycling of which should be stimulated by policy measures.
White, S. & Cordell, D.J. 2011, 'Phosphorus: A crisis we do not have to have', Australian R&D Review, vol. Feb - Mar, pp. 10-11.
Opinion piece
Cordell, D. & White, S. 2011, 'Peak Phosphorus: Clarifying the Key Issues of a Vigorous Debate about Long-Term Phosphorus Security', Sustainability, vol. 3, no. 10, pp. 2027-2049.
This paper reviews the latest information and perspectives on global phosphorus scarcity. Phosphorus is essential for food production and modern agriculture currently sources phosphorus fertilizers from finite phosphate rock. The 2008 food and phosphate fertilizer price spikes triggered increased concerns regarding the depletion timeline of phosphate rock reserves. While estimates range from 30 to 300 years and are shrouded by lack of publicly available data and substantial uncertainty, there is a general consensus that the quality and accessibility of remaining reserves are decreasing and costs will increase. This paper clarifies common sources of misunderstandings about phosphorus scarcity and identifies areas of consensus. It then asks, despite some persistent uncertainty, what would it take to achieve global phosphorus security? What would a hard-landing response look like and how could preferred soft-landing responses be achieved?
Neset, T.S. & Cordell, D.J. 2011, 'Global phosphorus scarcity - identifying synergies for a sustainable future', Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, vol. 92, no. 1, pp. 2-6.
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Global food production is dependent on constant inputs of phosphorus. In the current system this phosphorus is not predominantly derived from organic recycled waste, but to a large degree from phosphate-rock based mineral fertilisers. However, phosphate rock is a ?nite resource that cannot be manufactured. Our dependency therefore needs to be addressed from a sustainability perspective in order to ensure global food supplies for a growing global population. The situation is made more urgent by predictions that, for example, the consumption of resource intensive foods and the demand for biomass energy will increase. The scienti?c and societal debate has so far been focussed on the exact timing of peak phosphorus and on when the total depletion of the global reserves will occur. Even though the timing of these events is important, all dimensions of phosphorus scarcity need to be addressed in a manner which acknowledges linkages to other sustainable development challenges and which takes into consideration the synergies between different sustainability measures. Many sustainable phosphorus measures have positive impacts on other challenges; for example, shifting global diets to more plant-based foods would not only reduce global phosphorus consumption, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce nitrogen fertiliser demand and reduce water consumption
Cordell, D.J., White, S. & Lindstrom, T. 2011, 'Peak phosphorus: the crunch time for humanity?', The Sustainability Review, vol. 2, no. 2 (Research), pp. 1-1.
Cordell, D.J. & White, S. 2010, 'Securing a sustainable phosphorus future for Australia', Farm Policy Journal, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 1-18.
Australia has developed its agricultural export industry on the foundation of importing phosphorus: from Nauru. and more recently through substituting domestic production [or at least half of all demand for fertiliser. Decreasing ore grades for phosphate rock increasing concerns about the negative impact of run-off from soils, and the likelihood of future price increases all mean that a rethink is needed of the future of phosphorus in Australia, and globally. The current path for phosphorus lise in the world and in Australia is not sustainable. due to the significant levels of inefficiency, to the certainty of peak phosphorus in the coming decades and the vulnerability to potentially volatile markets. Moving towards a sustainable phosphorus future can be achieved by reducing our dependence on imported and domestic rock, by diversifying phosphorus sources through investing in renewable phosphorus fertilisers, increasing the efficiency of use throughout the system (not just in agriculture) and maximising recovery and reuse of phosphorus.
Cordell, D., Drangert, J.-.O. & White, S. 2009, 'The story of phosphorus: Global food security and food for thought', Global Environmental Change, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 292-305.
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Food production requires application of fertilizers containing phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium on agricultural fields in order to sustain crop yields. However modern agriculture is dependent on phosphorus derived from phosphate rock, which is a non-renewable resource and current global reserves may be depleted in 50-100 years. While phosphorus demand is projected to increase, the expected global peak in phosphorus production is predicted to occur around 2030. The exact timing of peak phosphorus production might be disputed, however it is widely acknowledged within the fertilizer industry that the quality of remaining phosphate rock is decreasing and production costs are increasing. Yet future access to phosphorus receives little or no international attention. This paper puts forward the case for including long-term phosphorus scarcity on the priority agenda for global food security. Opportunities for recovering phosphorus and reducing demand are also addressed together with institutional challenges. 2009.


Cordell, D.J., Mikhailovich, N., Mohr, S.H., Jacobs, B. & White, S. Australian Government: Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation 2014, Australian sustainable phosphorus futures: Phase II: Adapting to future phosphorus scarcity: Investigating potential sustainable phosphorus measures and strategies, no. RIRDC Publication No. 14/039, pp. 1-73.
This project investigates how Australia can manage phosphorus to ensure long-term food security, soil fertility, agricultural productivity, farmer livelihoods and environmental protection. The intended outcome overall is to deliver sustainable phosphorus adaptation strategies across a range of scenarios to increase the resilience of the Australian food system. An Australian phosphorus flows model, quantified and costed sustainable phosphorus measures and interactive future phosphorus scenarios, will enable stakeholders to identify policy implications and make informed policy decisions. This report presents the findings from Phase 2 of this project, Adapting to future phosphorus scarcity: investigating potential sustainable phosphorus measures and strategies. That is: 1. a Toolbox of sustainable phosphorus measures 2. a future scenarios model of sustainable phosphorus measures 3. a high-level influence diagram on which phosphorus vulnerability can be mapped 4. a conceptual framework for deliberating on, and synthesising adaptive pathways.
White, S., Herriman, J., Giurco, D., Cordell, D.J., Gero, A., Mason, L.M., May, D., Mohr, S.H. & Moore, D.D. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2012, Landfill Futures: Synthesis report, pp. 1-6, Sydney, Australia.
Cordell, D.J., Jackson, M.L., Boronyak, L.J., Cooper, C., Mohr, S.H., Moore, D.D. & White, S. Australian Sustainable Phosphorus Futures and Institute for Sustainable Futures 2012, Phase 1: Analysis of phosphorus flows through the Australian food production and consumption system, pp. 1-57, Sydney, Australia.
Cordell, D.J., Moore, D.D., Gero, A., Herriman, J., Mason, L.M. & White, S. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2012, Sustainability costs and challenges of waste management and mitigation in Australia: Technical report, pp. 1-51, Sydney, Australia.
Mason, L.M., Gero, A., Herriman, J., Cordell, D.J., Moore, D.D. & White, S. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2012, Understanding the Future of Landfills: Waste management policy in Australia. Technical report, pp. 1-55, Sydney, Australia.
Herriman, J., Asker, S.A., Gero, A., Cordell, D.J., Moore, D.D. & White, S. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2012, Waste Futures: Workshop report. Technical report, pp. 1-40, Sydney, Australia.
Gero, A., Herriman, J., Cordell, D.J., Mason, L.M., Moore, D.D. & White, S. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2012, Landfill Futures: Stakeholder interview summary report. Technical report, pp. 1-43, Sydney, Australia.
Mason, L.M., Boyle, T.M., Fyfe, J., Smith, T. & Cordell, D.J. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2011, National Food Waste Assessment, Sydney.
Mitchell, C.A., Cordell, D.J., Boyle, T.M. & Jackson, M.L. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2011, Australian Green Infrastructure Council Infrastructure sustainability rating tool: Water category, Sydney.
Cordell, D.J. Linkoping University Press 2010, The story of Phosphorus: sustainability implications of global phosphorus scarcity for food security (Doctoral thesis), pp. 1-220, Linkoping, Sweden.
The story of phosphorus began with the search for the philosopher's stone, and centuries later the critical role of phosphorus in soil fertility and crop growth was highlighted. Eventually, phosphorus was implicated in the global environmental challenge of eutrophication. Now, we are on the brink of yet another emerging chapter in the story: global phosphorus scarcity linked to food security. Through a transdisciplinary and systemic inquiry, this thesis has analyzed, reconceptualized and synthesized the physical and institutional dimensions of global phosphorus scarcity in the context of food security, leading to a new framing, `phosphorus security to guide future work towards a more sustainable and food secure pathway.
White, S., Cordell, D.J. & Moore, D.D. Institute for Sustainable Futures 2010, Securing a sustainable phosphorus future for Australia: implications of global phosphorus scarcity and possible solutions, pp. 1-47, University of Technology, Sydney.
Food production is fundamentally dependent on inputs of key natural resources, including water, energy and nutrients. Meeting the needs of a growing world population means agricultural fields will need to expand or intensify, either way requiring more fertilisers, including phosphorus (FAO, 2006). Unlike energy and water resources, there is very little discussion, research and policies that addresses long-term availability and accessibility of phosphorus for global food production. Yet the worlds main source of phosphorus phosphate rock is declining in both quantity and quality. Indeed, peak phosphorus is anticipated in the coming decades, after which demand will exceed suppl
Mitchell, C.A., Fam, D.M. & Cordell, D.J. Water Environment Research Foundation 2010, Effectively managing the transition towards restorative futures in the sewage industry: a phosphorus case study p.84-97 in 'Water Sustainability and International Innovation: The Baltimore Charter - A Transformation in Managing Water', pp. 83-96, Vermont, USA.
The water and sewage industry globally is at a transformation point. Whilst infrastructure is ageing, pressures are increasing and expectations are shifting towards quite different kinds of outcomes, including restorative futures that have a net positive impact. There is a growing realization that conventional approaches will struggle to deliver these kinds of outcomes, so new approaches are necessary. The emerging field of transition management offers some guidance for how to strategically manage a transition toward a restorative future. Phosphate scarcity will be a significant pressure and opportunity for new forms of sewage management in the medium term, so phosphorus recovery from sewage makes a particularly interesting case study for applying transition thinkin
Schroder, J.J., Cordell, D.J., Smit, B.L. & Rosemarin, A. Plant Research International 2010, Sustainable use of phosphorus, pp. 1-140, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Wageningen.
Cordell, D.J. & White, S. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2008, The Story of Phosphorus: Sustainability implications of global fertilizer scarcity for Australia - discussion paper, Discussion paper for the National Workshop on the Future of Phosphorus, pp. 1-21, Sydney.
Cordell, D.J. & White, S. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2008, The Story of Phosphorus: Sustainability implications of global fertilizer scarcity for Australia - synthesis report, Synthesis Report for the National Workshop on the Future of Phosphorus, pp. 1-12, Sydney.
Mitchell, C.A. & Cordell, D.J. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2007, Demonstration of innovative community based water cycle management system. Stage 1: sustainability screening and evaluation, pp. 1-107, Sydney, Australia.
This project is the first stage of a Demonstration of Innovative Decentralised Sewage Treatment Technologies and Management Systems Project. This first stage looks at both the development and application of a sustainability screening and evaluation tool. The tool is used to recommend a sustainable and appropriate technology option for community based wastewater systems. Its use is trialled in one of the Priority Sewage Program (PSP) areas at Galston High School. This site is considered appropriate for the technology demonstration as the soil horizon at the School is representative of the Hawkesbury-Nepean area (which the PSP area covers). That is, it has a clay layer overlaying a shale cap which overlays sandstone. The sustainability screening and evaluation tool was developed to address six key sustainability objectives (3 environmental, 1 technical, 1 social and 1 economic). A star rating system was developed, by which technologies (and technology options) for a specific site could be ranked and compared to determine which was the most sustainable and appropriate for that site. The tool is intended to be compatible with that developed by The Institute for Sustainable Futures and CSIRO in the Sydney Water Corporation Edmondson Park project. The six essential sustainability criteria were embedded in an 8-Step tool. The steps and their application to Galston High School are as follows: 1.Define effluent end-use scenarios. 2.Determine water and nutrient quality requirements for end uses. 3.Narrow selection of water quality requirements for site. 4.Generate and define process combinations to meet end uses. 5.Check minimum performance standards (PASS/FAIL). 6.Check appropriate fit-for-purpose water quality cascade. 7.a) Evaluate and rank technology options according to defined sustainability objectives and criteria. b) Address management issues. 8.Monitor and evaluate the chosen technology against objectives/criteria.
Cordell, D.J. The Tema Institute, Department of Water and Environmental Studies 2006, Urine diversion & reuse in Australia: A homeless paradigm or sustainable solution for the future? (Masters thesis), pp. 1-141, Linkoping University, Sweden.
This thesis found that while urine diversion is likely to benefit the Australia situation and warrants further research, these benefits are fragmented and spread across a range of discourses and separate institutions. Its acceptance and effective introduction into Australia might therefore be challenged by its lack of a single obvious organisational home. To overcome this and other identified challenges, several recommendations are made. For example, an Australian demonstration trial of urine diversion and reuse is recommended where clear drivers and opportunities exist, such as: in new developments adjacent to agricultural land; in regions where algal blooms are a critical problem and are predominantly caused by municipal sewage discharges; and where synergies with waterless urinals are being considered for water conservation value. This thesis does not promote urine diversion and reuse as the `silver bullet to Australias water and nutrient problems, however it does recommend that it be considered on an equal basis next to other possible options. For example, if reducing nutrient loads on receiving water bodies is a key objective, then a cost-effective analysis of urine diversion and reuse, compared to other options to reduce nutrient loads, could be undertaken, ensuring all relevant costs and benefits to the whole of society are included in the analysis.
White, S. & Cordell, D.J. Local Government and Shires Associations of New South Wales 2005, Beyond Recycling - An Integrated Waste Management Framework for Local Government - Part A: Developing an Integrated Waste Management Strategy and Empowering the Community, pp. 1-37, Sydney, Australia.
Although the Australian community is concerned about the environment and committed to kerbside recycling, Australia creates more waste per person than almost any other country. Substantial increases in the cost of waste disposal over the past decade have not curbed total waste generation, and the net cost of kerbside recycling to local government continues to be substantial. Consistent with the Local Government Act 1993, significant efforts have been made in NSW and other States to manage waste in line with the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development. However until recently these efforts have focused largely on managing the problem once waste has already been generated, such as increasing the efficiency of existing collection systems, new treatment technologies and turning waste into energy. There are significant opportunities for local government to explore other options in line with international developments in Extended Producer Responsibility. Such options typically operate higher up the waste hierarchy, and are more cost-effective than current practice, in addition to achieving greater environmental benefits.
White, S. & Cordell, D.J. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2004, Beyond Recycling - An Integrated Waste Management Framework for Local Government - Part B: Recycling in Context - the Current Situation, Sydney, Australia.
White, S., Lansbury, N., Nheu, N. & Cordell, D.J. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2004, Review of the National Packaging Covenant, pp. 1-99, Sydney.
The NSW Nature Conservation Council, with funding from the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation, commissioned the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney, to carry out an independent review of the National Packaging Covenant and the National Environmental Protection Measure for Used Packaging Materials (the Covenant systema), in December 2003. This review was intended to evaluate the Covenant system's effectiveness in achieving both its stated objectives and broader environmental and social outcomes, including reduction in generation of packaging waste, specifically reduction in virgin materials used in packaging and a reduction in packaging material disposed to landfill. The National Packaging Covenant (NPC) is a voluntary agreement between industry, the Commonwealth Government, most State Governments and some local governments, to reduce packaging waste. It is supported by a regulatory measure, the National Environmental Protection Measure (NEPM), designed to encourage brand owners to sign the NPC. The NPC came into effect in August 1999 and is due to finish in July 2004. It is currently the subject of three separate reviews, including this one. The principle of a cooperative regulatory framework supported by a regulatory safety net is an appealing one, so there is a strong desire on the part of industry and some government agencies to provide the maximum possible opportunity for the NPC to demonstrate that it has provided benefits. This review has determined that the Covenant system is not an effective instrument for reducing the generation of packaging waste and therefore an alternative policy framework will be needed to achieve this goal. The evaluation is briefly summarised for each of the criteria.
Cordell, D.J. & White, S. Insititute for Sustainable Futures 2004, Independent review of waterless urinals in Australia, Sydney, Australia.
White, S., Robinson, J., Cordell, D.J., Jha, M. & Milne, G.R. Water Services Association of Australia 2003, Urban water demand forecasting and demand management: Research needs review and recommendations, pp. 1-56, Sydney, Australia.
Urban Water Demand Forecasting and Demand Management - Research Needs Review and Recommendations This study undertook a preliminary investigation of current research into urban water demand. The objective was to conduct a preliminary review of this field, to provide the beginnings of a comprehensive database of industry knowledge in this area and to identify research gaps. It is anticipated that this will lead to a more considered approach to research funding by the Australian water industry and maximise the potential for transparency and collaboration
Young, E. & Cordell, D.J. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2002, Waste minimisation and management strategy, Sydney.
Robinson, J. & Cordell, D.J. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2002, A pilot toilet and shower water use study: A follow-up to the Perth domestic water use study, Sydney.
White, S., Calvert, F., Cordell, D.J., O'Rourke, A., Waters, S.C. & Young, E. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2001, Independent Review of Container Deposit Legislation in NSW - Vol 1. Extended Producer Responsibility: Principles, Policy and Practice in NSW, Sydney.
White, S., Aisbett, E., Awad, I., Bubna-Litic, K., Calvert, F., Chanan, V., Cordell, D.J., Hendriks, C., Lee, N., O'Rourke, A., Palmer, J., Robinson, J., Young, E. & Sarac, K. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2001, Independent Review of Container Deposit Legislation in NSW - Vol 2. Costs and Benefits of Container Deposit Legislation in NSW, Sydney.
White, S., Aisbett, E., Awad, I., Bubna-Litic, K., Calvert, F., Chanan, V., Cordell, D.J., Hendriks, C., Lee, N., O'Rourke, A., Palmer, J., Robinson, J., Sarac, K. & Young, E. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2001, Independent Review of Container Deposit Legislation in NSW - Vol 3. Consultation and Social Research, Sydney.
Cordell, D.J. & Young, E. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2001, Waste minimisation and management strategy: stage 1, pp. 1-65, Sydney.
The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA) provided funding to the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) to conduct a review of the existing waste minimisation and management practices and to develop a waste minimisation and management strategy for The Rocks. The demolition of Waste Facility 1 on August 3rd, mid way through the project timeline, was one of the main incentives for the instigation of the project. The project allowed the SHFA to initiate a strategy that will enhance the productivity of the system for managing and minimising waste and provide a case study on which to base future ways of achieving increased waste minimisation. This report: describes the current waste management system at the Rocks; identifies a number of options for reducing the amount of waste to landfill; and provides an estimate of the costs and benefits associated with different options. Methodology A review of the current waste management practices was undertaken followed by the estimation of the total volumes of waste and the composition of the waste streams for each of the waste facilities. This was achieved through meetings with SHFA staff, visual inspections of the site, and informal interviews with tenants, cleaners and garbage collectors. A literature review was undertaken to estimate the composition of the waste streams by business type. Existing waste arrangements at The Rocks There were seven waste facilities in the study area. Currently the residual waste is picked daily by The City of Sydney Council. Cardboard is also collected from the site three days a week, and paper is collected once a week from the SHFA offices. No recycling of containers is currently taking place. The current waste collection and disposal costs are approximately $10,00 per month. A new pricing structure is planned and costs are expected to rise.
Cordell, D.J. University of New South Wales 2001, Improving carrying capacity determination: material flux analysis of Phosphorus through sustainable Aboriginal communities (Hons thesis), Sydney, Australia.