Jul 20

Putting Pee To Work

putting pee to workMy personal feelings about drinking beer—and I’m not alone on this—is that you rent it. It seems that within minutes of downing a cold frosty brew, I’m off and running for the ladies room. Men can experience the same phenomenon, yet their rental deposit can be made somewhat easier than can a female’s.

This scenario caused me to think about a great recycling idea: putting pee to work. Hey, there’s an endless supply, so why not make it useful? This is not my idea, and as is often the case, the concept comes from our neighbors abroad. More specifically, France and Denmark have made their mark in this area. Each has approached putting pee to work in a similar way, but with some twists. Here’s what I mean.

Where the two countries are similar is in their use and collection of urine, which is “harvested” from beer drinkers for use as fertilizer. There’s nothing especially magic about the pee gathered from beer lovers, but given the venue from which it has been collected—beer festivals—it’s easy to appreciate the ready-made opportunity.

Putting pee to work in France

Several years ago, a design group in France called Faltazi made a portable composting urinal (L’Uritonnoir) that allows for the collection of significant volumes of urine that are typically produced during large gatherings, such as beer festivals.

Basically, the Uritonnoir resembles a wide funnel that has a tapered spout on one end. It can be made from either stainless steel (which can be easily cleaned and reused again and again) or from polyprophylene (which also can be cleaned but is not as environmentally friendly).

The funnels are placed into large bales of hay and secured with straps. These bales are then placed at strategic locations throughout the festivals and males are encouraged to relieve themselves (number one only) into the funnels.

The science is simple. The nitrogen in the pee hooks up with the carbon in the hay or straw, which accelerates the decomposition of the bale until it is a pile of fertilizer within 6 to 12 months. The bales can be moved from the festivals to desired locations. You could, of course, put your own pee to work on a smaller scale for your own garden (although I do recommend providing some sort of privacy!).

Yes, there are some downsides to this approach. One is a lack of privacy, although the bales can be placed strategically with privacy in mind. However, men at least don’t seem to mind a community urination effort.

Another potential problem is the odor, although portable toilets are not breath of fresh air either. The stainless steel funnels are recommended since they can be cleaned and reused.

putting pee to workDanish Putting Pee to Work

At a recent music festival in Denmark (Roskilde Festival), the organizers got together with the Danish Agriculture & Food Council on a recycling idea. Affectionately called the “from piss to pilsner” project, individuals who attended the music extravaganza were asked to contribute their urine in special facilities so local farmers could utilize it as fertilizer for barley used to produce beer.

This recycling effort is truly a unique way to transform beer into more beer! That’s because the urine was collected and stored in tanks that were then made available to fertilize the barley in nearby fields. Attendees at the 2015 event who return next year could very well consume beer made from the very barley fields they helped to fertilize!

While the males had a readily available way to leave their deposits, females who attended the festival had the option to use a P-Mate disposable urine director. Henrik Rasmussen, Managing Director of the Roskilde Festival, remarked that recycling the beer “is certainly a fascinating proposal for a sustainable solution where urine isn’t just sent down the drain, but becomes a useful resource.”

The use of human urine as a source of fertilizer is not a new concept, but it’s about time we granted it more widespread recognition and acceptance. Will we see the recycling of urine in the United States anytime soon? Henrik Rasmussen, managing director of the Roskilde Festival, provided some food for thought. “The beercycling project is certainly a fascinating proposal for a sustainable solution where urine isn’t just sent down the drain, but becomes a useful resource.” We need more effort in this direction.

ALSO READ Harnessing the power of poop

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