In a recent breakthrough discovery, a group of researchers have found a new solution to combat freshwater scarcity and water pollution for agricultural purposes. The latest discovery suggests that human urine can be converted into suitable fertilizer, which can not only boost agricultural improvements but also reduce the issue of freshwater shortage.
The rising issue of water pollution worldwide has become a serious concern for farmers and agricultural workers. The latest breakthrough seems like a ray of hope for concerned people. But the major question is whether recycling urine can save the world from the upcoming water crisis?
A Peek into the Revolutionary Breakthrough
Gotland, one of the largest islands in Sweden, faces freshwater scarcity. The inhabitants are also battling dangerous amounts of pollution from agriculture and sewer systems that is causing harmful algal blooms in the surrounding Baltic Sea. This can not only kill the marine but also make people ill.
In 2021, a team of researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala, suggested utilizing human urine to combat these environmental challenges. They began collaborating with a local company that rents our portable toilets and went with the goal to collect more than 70k L of urine over a period of 3 years. They collected the designated quantity from waterless urinals and specialized toilets at several locations during the summer season.
The researchers developed a process in which the human urine was dried into concrete-like chunks and hammered into a powder. It was further pressed into fertilizer pellets that fitted into standard farming equipment. This fertilizer can be used by a local farmer to grow barley that will go to a brewery to make ale—which, after further consumption, could enter the cycle all over again.
Can this urine revolution enhance agricultural practices?
While the researchers aim to take urine reuse beyond its concept and into practice on a large scale, the real question is whether this process can be affordable for every local farmer in every corner of the world.
For years, the concept of using dried waste and decompose has been considered an advantageous substitute for chemical fertilizers and manure used in agriculture. The unique concept of drying urine has the potential to kickstart a breakthrough approach to the green revolution. If implemented worldwide, recycled urine could replace nearly a quarter of all the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer used in agriculture.
However, the entire process would require the set up of a service chain that is capable of supplying local farmers with the required chemical agents to conduct the drying process. It will also require enough time and devotion of farmers for drying and processing it into fertilizers. A similar service chain already exists for the recycling of plastics, metals, paper and glass—dried urine could simply be another component.
The major concerns which arise here are
- Whether every farmer, irrespective of their assets or products, will be capable of affording the entire setup?
- Whether the process will trigger chemical pollution?
- Whether the entire setup will influence the designated agriculture budget of developing and under-developed nations?