When The Mosaic Co. wanted to study using phosphogypsum — a waste byproduct of the phosphate industry now heaped into small mountains — in road construction, it turned to the Sustainable Materials Management Research Laboratory at the University of Florida’s College of Engineering.
Environmental engineering professor Timothy Townsend works in Florida and around the world on sustainable solid and hazardous waste management. Mosaic, a Tampa-based Fortune 500 company that mines phosphate for fertilizer, has sponsored roughly $500,000 in research funding for his lab over the past three years for projects that seek to find beneficial uses for phosphogypsum.
More than 1 billion tons of the mildly radioactive byproduct rise in two dozen “stacks” across central Florida. UF brings in $1 billion in annual research funding. The vast majority, $672 million, comes from federal agencies. Foundations come in next at $124 million; state and local funders at $84 million; and industry with $54.5 million.
Townsend said it doesn’t really matter where research money comes from: Ultimately, he wants to understand the potential for reuse and recycling of phosphogypsum and other wastes.
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