University Of Michigan Toilet System Aims To Turn Urine Into Fertilizer


The University of Michigan has installed a toilet system that upcycles urine into fertilizer. The system will segregate urine from solid waste and treat it so that it can be used for the school's plants. Detroit Free Press reported that the University of Michigan has installed a toilet and urinal in a campus engineering building that converts human urine to fertilizers. The split-bowl design of the toilet will send solid waste to a treatment plant but will route urine to a holding tank.

The urine will be treated and used to create fertilizers. It will be applied on the university's botanical gardens.Engineering professor Krista Wigginton did admit the likelihood that people may feel "a little queasy" about the fact that their urine is being used as a fertilizer. She also confirmed that a portion of the project is on the social science side, on whether or not people are willing to adopt the system.

The toilet system is part of a $3 million project funded by the National Science Foundation. It is deemed as the nation's largest program that studies the technological requirements and social attitudes in relation to urine-based fertilizers.

Last September, the University of Michigan announced the $3 million grant for the toilet system. The school's engineering researchers worked with experts at the Rich Earth Institute, UM School of Natural Resources and Environment, UM School of Public Health, University at Buffalo as well as an independent communications consultant.

It was noted that researchers have continued to explore different ways to remove bacteria, viruses and residual pharmaceuticals from urine to make it an effective fertilizer since 2014. Urine has nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, all of which are important nutrients for plant growth.

The project is expected to solve the problem of excess nutrients from urine released into rivers and streams as well as the high cost of creating synthetic fertilizers. Researchers will continue to test other urine-treatment methods such as charcoal filtration, freeze-thaw concentration, pasteurization and bio-nitrification.

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