D4 Published development or research report or study

Menetelmäkuvaus ravinnejalanjäljen laskemiseksi. Laskentaesimerkkinä elintarvikeketju. NUTS-hankkeen loppuraportti

Open Access publication

Publication Details
Authors: Ypyä Jenni, Grönman Kaisa, Virtanen Yrjö, Seuri Pentti, Soukka Risto, Kurppa Sirpa
Publication year: 2015
Language: Finnish
Volume number: 9
eISBN: 978-952-326-008-5
JUFO level of this publication: 0
Open Access: Open Access publication
Location of the parallel saved publication: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-326-008-5


Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are necessary nutrients for all
secure food production and all life. However, as a result of human
activity, excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in particular
have been introduced into the nutrient cycle, which, due to nutrient
leakage from production chains, manifests itself in the form of nutrient
emissions and different environmental impacts. In addition to
emissions, the nutrient economy is burdened by the limited amount of
resources available: the phosphorus resources are dwindling, and the
manufacture of reactive nitrogen from theatmosphere requires large
amounts of fossil fuels.

To be able to tackle the problems described above through management
of individual production and consumption chains, it must be possible to
quantify and evaluate nutrient flows. This study presents a method for
calculating the nutrient footprint. The aim with using the nutrient
footprint is to measure the efficiency of utilisation of nutrients in
various production and consumption chains. It is used for examining how
much nutrients each chain takes in, and how much of this intake of
nutrients is utilised, either in the product under study or its
by-product, or some other commodity making use of nutrients. At the same
time, the leakage points along the chain are also identified: the
nutrients can be lost through evaporation or leaching, or they may end
up in long-term storage, or as waste without nutrient recovery. On the
basis of these classifications, the nutrient footprint per functional
unit under study is calculated: “For the product, a total of x kg of the
nutrient (nitrogen or phosphorus) is taken to use, of which y% was
utilised in the product, the total utilisation rate amounting to z% with
all practical uses considered.”

In this study, the calculation of the nutrient footprint is
demonstrated by means of a calculation made for oatmeal and porridge.
The report includes instructions for calculating the nutrient footprint
in each phase of the life cycle, beginning from input production in
primary production and ending with waste management.

The results of the calculation show that, during its life cycle, the
oatmeal chain takes in 42 kg of nitrogen and 7 kg of phosphorus. 55% of
the nitrogen was utilised in the main product, or oatmeal and, with the
by-products considered, the total utilisation rate of nitrogen amounted
to 71%. 55% of the phosphorus was utilised in the main product, and the
total utilisation rate of phosphorus was 99%. Clearly the weakest
utilisation rates of nitrogen and phosphorus (less than 50%) are
achieved in sewage disposal and food waste treatment. On the basis of
the results of this calculation, it could be stated that waste
management is the sector with the most room for improvement. The
nutrient footprint offers information on the consumption and efficiency
of utilisation of nutrient resources in a simple and comparable form. In
that sense, it is comparable with the water footprint, even though it
does not take account of the relative access to nutrients in the same
manner as the water footprint. On the basis of the calculation made, it
can be concluded that the nutrient footprint would seem to be a usable
method for examining the environmental dimension of sustainability
alongside other LCA-based methods, such as the assessment of the climate
change potential and eutrophication potential. In addition, we would be
able to obtain a much clearer overall image of the ecological
sustainability of the product flows and the products if the assessments
of the nutrient footprint, the carbon footprint, and the eutrophication
potential, as well as the ecotoxicity footprint and the potential
describing the biodiversity change were combined.

The nutrient footprint can be applied to the study of the production
efficiency of food products, which is rational since feed and food
production is responsible for the main part of nutrient flows, but it is
also suited for the examination and development of other production
chains for bioenergy and biomaterials.


Last updated on 2021-15-06 at 10:31

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