Cities are a key system in anthropogenic phosphorus (P) cycling because they concentrate both P demand and waste production. Urban agriculture (UA) has been proposed as a means to improve P management by recycling cities' P-rich waste back into local food production. However, we have a limited understanding of the role UA currently plays in the P cycle of cities or its potential to recycle local P waste. Using existing data combined with surveys of local UA practitioners, we quantified the role of UA in the P cycle of Montreal, Canada to explore the potential for UA to recycle local P waste. We also used existing data to complete a substance flow analysis of P flows in the overall food system of Montreal. In 2012, Montreal imported 3.5 Gg of P in food, of which 2.63 Gg ultimately accumulated in landfills, 0.36 Gg were discharged to local waters, and only 0.09 Gg were recycled through composting. We found that UA is only a small sub-system in the overall P cycle of the city, contributing just 0.44% of the P consumed as food in the city. However, within the UA system, the rate of recycling is high: 73% of inputs applied to soil were from recycled sources. While a Quebec mandate to recycle 100% of all organic waste by 2020 might increase the role of UA in P recycling, the area of land in UA is too small to accommodate all P waste produced on the island. UA may, however, be a valuable pathway to improve urban P sustainability by acting as an activity that changes residents' relationship to, and understanding of, the food system and increases their acceptance of composting.
Metson, G. S., & Bennett, E. M. (2015). Phosphorus cycling in Montreal’s food and urban agriculture systems. PLoS ONE, 10(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0120726