Defining Nutrient Colocation Typologies for Human-Derived Supply and Crop Demand to Advance Resource Recovery

Desarae Echevarria, John T. Trimmer, Roland D. Cusick, Jeremy S. Guest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Resource recovery from human excreta can advance circular economies while improving access to sanitation and renewable agricultural inputs. While national projections of nutrient recovery potential provide motivation for resource recovery sanitation, elucidating generalizable strategies for sustainable implementation requires a deeper understanding of country-specific overlap between supply and demand. For 107 countries, we analyze the colocation of human-derived nutrients (in urine) and crop demands for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. To characterize colocation patterns, we fit data for each country to a generalized logistic function. Using fitted logistic curve parameters, three typologies were identified: (i) dislocated nutrient supply and demand resulting from high density agriculture (with low population density) and nutrient islands (e.g., dense cities) motivating nutrient concentration and transport; (ii) colocated nutrient supply and demand enabling local reuse; and (iii) diverse nutrient supply-demand proximities, with countries spanning the continuum between (i) and (ii). Finally, we explored connections between these typologies and country-specific contextual characteristics via principal component analysis and found that the Human Development Index was clustered by typology. By providing a generalizable, quantitative framework for characterizing the colocation of human-derived nutrient supply and agricultural nutrient demand, these typologies can advance resource recovery by informing resource management strategies, policy, and investment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10704-10713
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 3 2021


  • circular economy
  • nitrogen
  • phosphorus
  • potassium
  • sanitation
  • spatial analysis
  • urine diversion
  • wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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