Data Acquisition

Turning Human Urine into Environmentally Friendly Fertilizer

26 December 2017

Nitrogen, micronutrients and phosphorous — some of the elements making up human urine — are extremely useful in discussions concerning agriculture. So much so that University of Queensland (UQ) scientists are taking part in trials of a technology that attempts to recover and reuse those elements.

Commonly used in industrial fertilizers, nitrogen and phosphorous are typically manufactured through processes requiring significant amounts of energy. However, removing these same ingredients from human urine would be a low-energy alternative, which is what inspired the research team to develop the system.

The system, called UGold, is designed to recover nitrogen, phosphorous and micronutrients from urine deposited in a toilet. If the process is successful, the results, according to researchers, would benefit the environment, agriculture and the fertilizer industry, not to mention the fact that it would also create waterless toilets.

According to UQ Advanced Water Management Centre Associate Professor Dr. Stefano Freguia, “The UGold system could create a more sustainable source of nitrogen and phosphorus for fertilizer and also reduce the amount of energy required to treat sewage — a win for business and the environment.”

Queensland Urban Utilities spokesperson Michelle Cull said, “Removing nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater uses a huge amount of energy, so treating at the source could potentially save millions of dollars on electricity and infrastructure costs.”

Though the system still needs to undergo further trials, researchers are currently using materials recovered from UGold to fertilize one garden.

To contact the author of this article, email marie.donlon@ieeeglobalspec.com


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Discussion – 12 comments

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Re: Turning Human Urine into Environmentally-friendly Fertilizer
#1
2017-Dec-26 4:13 PM

I find this rather disturbing as the infectious nature of prions is not known fully, there remains a possibility that this may be an avenue of proliferation for insidious maladies that not only persist but seem to be growing in number as we speak....that being said this seems an unwise endeavour...therefore you should cease and desist and abandon this ill advised path....

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2593137/

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1404401#t=article

Re: Turning Human Urine into Environmentally-friendly Fertilizer
#2
In reply to #1
2017-Dec-27 6:18 AM

I shall continue to pee on the compost heap.

Re: Turning Human Urine into Environmentally-friendly Fertilizer
#3
In reply to #2
2017-Dec-27 8:22 AM

You wouldn't think that was funny if you've ever watched a loved one die from Alzheimer's....

Re: Turning Human Urine into Environmentally-friendly Fertilizer
#4
In reply to #3
2017-Dec-27 12:51 PM

I'm sorry to hear of your unfortunate loss, but let us not argue from the particular event to a general situation. It is still a hypothesis to be worked on that Alzheimer's is a prion disease.

In the meantime the likelihood that I am carrying a prion approaches zero, and the likelihood that something else would pick up sufficient of my prions to infect them is zero.

Re: Turning Human Urine into Environmentally-friendly Fertilizer
#5
In reply to #4
2017-Dec-27 7:50 PM

..."Recent experiments in mice have added weight to the idea that Alzheimer's is driven by an infection-like spread of protein aggregates in the brain. ... In fact, it represents a return to one of the first modern theories about Alzheimer's: that it is like a weakly-transmissible prion disease.Feb 17, 2012"...

http://dana.org/News/Details.aspx?id=43210

..." In recent years, scientists have discovered that similar processes of protein misfolding are at work in many neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease. Now, a study in Nature reveals the first evidence for human-to-human transmission of the misfolded proteins that underlie the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease."...

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/evidence-for-person-to-person-transmission-of-alzheimer-s-pathology/

So maybe the guy who is peeing in the compost your vegetables are grown in, or animals you are consuming were fed with, had the disease....? Have you been tested?... otherwise your insistence that you are prion free is rather puzzling....I don't blame you for fear of being a carrier, just your public denial of the possibility....If you are so sure that Alzheimer's is non-transmissible, then what is your explanation of its prevalence? Where and how does the disease originate?

https://www.cdc.gov/prions/cwd/transmission.html

Re: Turning Human Urine into Environmentally-friendly Fertilizer
#6
In reply to #5
2017-Dec-27 8:00 PM

..."An estimated 5.5 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer's disease. Of the estimated 5.5 million Americans living with Alzheimer's dementia in 2017, an estimated 5.3 million are age 65 and older and approximately 200,000 individuals are under age 65 and have younger-onset Alzheimer's."...

Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death in the US....one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer's...Deaths from Alzheimer's have increased 89% since 2000....one in ten people 65 and older has Alzheimer's...

https://www.alz.org/facts/overview.asp

Re: Turning Human Urine into Environmentally-friendly Fertilizer
#10
In reply to #6
2017-Dec-28 7:02 AM

It's all in the statistics. The prevalence of age-related illness is related to the prevalence of elderly people. Cardiovascular disease mortality is also on the up. The increased prevalence of any illness may also be related to the increased ability to diagnose it.

Re: Turning Human Urine into Environmentally-friendly Fertilizer
#11
In reply to #10
2017-Dec-28 10:51 AM

Cardiovascular disease deaths have declined 14% since 2000....these are per capita data points...

Re: Turning Human Urine into Environmentally-friendly Fertilizer
#7
2017-Dec-27 10:43 PM

As the article provides no information about the UGold process, it seems we have no information about the potential for the existence of the dreaded prions; after all, not all forms of phosporous, nitrogen and micronutrients are biologically harmful.

Re: Turning Human Urine into Environmentally-friendly Fertilizer
#8
In reply to #7
2017-Dec-27 11:23 PM

The very fact that they don't address this issue is cause for concern....

http://www.awmc.uq.edu.au/ugold-decentralised-nutrient-recovery-urine-microbial-electroconcentration-cells

Re: Turning Human Urine into Environmentally-friendly Fertilizer
#9
In reply to #8
2017-Dec-27 11:26 PM

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29210701

Re: Turning Human Urine into Environmentally-friendly Fertilizer
#12
In reply to #9
2018-Jan-09 2:50 PM

Prions? Dementia? Reduction in cardiac deaths? Maybe we should focus on living well rather than pointlessly and selfishly extending life to a point where our genetics cannot allow us a useful existance. I shall continue to pee in the environment as often as possible also

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