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Public Urinal Turns Pee into Bamboo


Image source: hyphae.net

Public bathrooms can be pretty disgusting, depending on the location, but so can the smell of urine wafting out from an alley, where those who opt to not find a bathroom have drained their bladders. One possible solution for both of those issues is a public urinal that uses bamboo plants to clean the water.

The PPlanter (pee-pee planter?), which is the work of Hyphae Design Laboratory in Oakland CA, is a public urinal with a twist. The system, designed to be modular and rapidly deployable, uses two plastic storage tanks, one to hold clean water for washing hands and flushing the urinal, and the other to receive the urine and water and direct it to bamboo planters, which clean and dilute the urine while using the nitrogen and phosphorus from the urine as fertilizer.

“The greywater, soap and urine (blackwater) from the ADA-compliant urinal are funneled to a sealed storage tank. The combined water is then pumped into an adjacent planter that houses bamboo plants set in a lightweight mixture of soil and recycled styrofoam coated in pectin. The water from the urinal and sink is evapotranspired by the bamboo and released into the air as distilled, purified water. The bamboo harnesses the incredible amount of nitrogen and phosphorus found in the urine and uses it to produce more bamboo. With high traffic urinals additional planters can be added to the system.”

The PPlanter’s bamboo functions, along with wood chips, straw, and zeolite, as a biofilter, breaking down the urine and removing odors. The first PPlanter was installed temporarily at a busy San Francisco neighborhood, and the results of the demonstration, which included being used by 300 people over the course of a day, were positive enough that the city has requested a permanent installation of a double urinal (and single composting toilet) unit.

According to New Scientist, Hyphae Design Laboratory plans to offer these innovative bathrooms for rent for use at events and festivals.

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