With a water shortage is plaguing several parts of the world, people are developing new ways to use urine as a substitute, representing a process that is known as “pee-cycling”. Currently, research on how to make urine useful is being funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency.
Many people in Brattleboro, VT are donating their urine to the Rich Earth Institute, which uses the donated urine as a fertilizer on local hayfields. The Rich Earth Institute functions out of a garage that has been transformed into a lab, workshop and processing center. The institute is one of many research centers across the country that are working to make human urine as useful as possible.
All of the pee is collected and stored together. From there, a reverse-osmosis filtration pump concentrates the urine, making it ready for pasteurization and the distribution to nearby farms. In total, the Rich Earth Institute collects more than 5,000 gallons of urine every year.
Workers are then able to extract phosphorus and nitrogen from the urine. These elements are important when it comes to maintaining healthy plant growth. They are both prominently featured in many garden and crop fertilizers.
According to workers at the Rich Earth Institute, the average daily urine output from an adult is enough to fertilize the production of an entire load of wheat bread. The urine functions exactly the same as any other type of manure. Hayfields that have been fertilized with urine have been shown to produce equivalent yields to fields fertilized with other types of fertilizers.
It is very important that waste nutrients be reincorporated into farming so that the agricultural system can be kept healthy. Most of today’s wastewater ends up in lakes or ponds, where it helps to form dangerous algae and cyanobacteria. Indeed, not using urine for beneficial purposes often means that it ends up harming the environment instead.
The best way to deal with this problem is to make good use of the urine by using it for positive purposes instead of letting it become an environmental hazard. While urine makes up less than one percent of wastewater, it plays a big part in causing destruction to lakes and ponds.
Additionally, urine is extremely easy to work with. It is almost always sterile, and it contains few heavy metals. The amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that can be harvested from urine is extremely useful.
For now, people are continuing to find ways to collect their urine so that it can be put to good use. Some people have installed devices on their toilets so that the urine gets collected instead of wasted. There have also been the creation of portable pee collecting devices that work for both men and women. That way, people can save their pee and donate it to environmental groups who will turn waste into efficiency.