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Amsterdam Collects Urine to Fertilize City’s Green Roofs

Screen_Shot_2013-11-21_at_11.38.58_AM.png.662x0_q100_crop-scaleEarlier this month, the city of Amsterdam was the host of the International Water Week, a remarkable event that gathered environmentalists and governmental officials, who joined forces to seek for solutions to problems associated with scarcity of water resources due to sea level rise, climate change, population growth and drought.

Campaigners from around the world presented their innovative ways to collect donations and raise money for the common cause, some even going to slight extremes. For example, a great initiative called Green Urine, by the Amsterdam’s own water corporation, Waternet, has an aim to encourage guys to use common urinals and donate their pee for a great cause. Here are the details.

If you happened to walk by one of the central squares in Amsterdam, Het Beursplein, earlier this month, you would have noticed quite a sufficient number of urinals placed in the middle of it. These were put there with the sole reason to collect urine, which will then be treated and phosphorus will be extracted from it to be turned into a fertilizer.

Before you look at the campaign lightly, you should know that phosphorus is one of the key constituents of agricultural fertilizers, but the precious element is known to be depleting and expected to disappear from natural sources such as rocks in mines, within the next 100 years. This could affect the world’s agriculture and food supply, not to mention carefully maintained green areas in cities.

Waternet, however, is determined not to let this affect the Dutch capital city, famous for the numerous parks and green rooftops. The company decided to make use of the fact that the human body gets rid of excess phosphorus through the urine, and initiated the pee-donation campaign. They are also constructing a processing plant, which is expected to open its doors sometime in 2014 and it will also serve as a urine collection point.

So next time you walk the streets of Amsterdam, nature calls and you reach for the 50 euro cents (+/- 10 depending on which pub or mall is nearest to you) to pay for using a public toilet, think again. You might actually be much better off to do a good deed, donate your pee and help the city be green.

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About the author

Mila is a researcher and scientist with a great passion for soils, rocks, plants, water and all environment-related aspects of our surroundings. For the past 10 years, during the course of her educational and professional development, she travelled all over Europe, Africa and Asia, driven by her passion for the environment and urge to seek challenges.

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