Swiss project ‘Urine Express’ to put human pee into sustainable use

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Swiss Project Urine Express To Put Human Pee Into Sustainable Use - We The World Magazine

Many places in the world battle scarcity of water. Some places are cursed enough to have water but can’t use it due to dangerous levels of pollution. 

And then, on the other hand, there are sewage systems around the world that on average use 100 liters of water to flush a single liter of urine. 

Bridging the gap of such stark disparity, Switzerland-based researchers have developed a system that utilizes human excreta into substances that could be used as fertilizers like the invaluable phosphorus. 

(Swiss project ‘Urine Express’ to put human pee into sustainable use)  Image courtesy of Vuna

Their mobile plant named ‘urine express’ is a van that processes pee into distilled water and liquid fertilizer, Deutsche Welle reports. After the human business is done in the urinal, the excrement is processed. Algae and bacteria are added in it to convert it into sludge and the wastewater is purified by up to 90 percent to eliminate odor, germs, and bacteria. 

Further processing is done to bind the phosphorus and create struvite (a phosphate fertilizer) and filter it from residues of medication and stuff using activated carbon.

From human pee to fertilizer

Within just 2-3 days, this plant can derive 70 liters of fertilizers and 930 liters of water from 1000 liters of urine. Enough fertilizers to irrigate 2000 square meters of land and it can produce drinking water if further filtered, according to the report. 

“We usually use 100 liters of water to flush away a single liter of urine,” Bastien Etter, an environmental engineer who is a part of this project told DW. “We want to use it as a way to make a contribution to saving resources,” he added. 

The Vuna team has already tested the mobile processing nite in areas like Nepal and South Africa where there’s no centralized sewage system. 

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Phosphorus

After calcium phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body. Healthline states a long list of benefits phosphorus does to the human body like reducing muscle pain after a workout, filtering waste in the kidney, helping move the muscles, building strong teeth, produce RNA and DNA, grow, repair, and maintain cells and tissues, and various other functions. Furthermore, phosphate is used in huge quantities by farmers in the fields. 

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

However, in recent times, the reserves have started to deplete. A last year’s report states phosphorus reserves are running out making the world vulnerable to ‘imminent crisis’’ as the substance underpins the global food supply chain. 

The threat partly comes from the fact that the biggest supply of rock phosphate, a finite resource, mainly comes from politically unstable places, threatening the other countries that have little to no reserves. 

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