It might not seem like it, but your urine is pretty valuable. It’s filled with waste products, sure, but also useful nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. And every time you flush, you’re sending them right down the drain.
A team of researchers at the University of California, Davis is developing a method to stop this needless waste of, um, resources. The goal of the Urine Recovery Research Group (whose acronym, URRG, is just perfect) is to separate beneficial nutrients from the rest of your urine with the goal of turning it into fertilizer for farmers.
The hope, according to researcher Harold Leverenz, is that the technology could be one day be used to help developing countries who don’t have steady access to farming necessities like fertilizer. If URRG’s technology works, the nutrients found in the urine citizens produce every day could be repurposed to grow crops.
The group has already developed a prototype for extracting the nutrients. Now they just need the urine. And what better place to get lots and lots of it than at a brewery? So URRG partnered with Sudwerk Brewing Co. in Davis, California, to install a special urinal in the bathroom of the brewery/restaurant.
“You can’t just go to any business and say, ‘We’d like to start collecting urine.’ But the folks at the brewery saw the logic in what we’re trying to do, and they embraced it,” Leverenz says.
With only a few dozen people using it each night, the system at the brewery doesn’t quite fill the research team’s needs, Leverenz says—the extraction device can process up to 100 gallons of urine a day. But it does give the team a chance to test the system on a small scale and work out any bugs.
So if you’re visiting Sudwerk anytime soon, go ahead and break the seal. Think of it as a scientific donation.