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PPlanter public urinal processes pee using plants

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February 25, 2014

The PPlanter in use, by a person and a bamboo plant

The PPlanter in use, by a person and a bamboo plant

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If you live in a big city, then there are doubtless alleyways or alcoves you know of that always smell like pee. While it might help to install public urinals in these places, doing so involves a lot of work and expense. Porta Potties are one alternative, although Oakland, California-based Hyphae Design Laboratory has developed a more eco-friendly solution known as the PPlanter. It's a self-contained modular system, that uses bamboo to process the pee.

Here's how the PPlanter works ...

A user steps up and pees into the actual urinal itself, with their mid-section hidden by a privacy panel (disposable funnels are provided for women, so they can do their business standing up). When they're done, they use a foot pump to draw water from an attached reservoir through the faucet of a built-in sink, allowing them to wash their hands.

Once it's gone down the drain, the used wash water rinses out the urinal, with the urine and water then carried into an airtight tank. From there, the mixed liquid is pumped into the planter/biofilter, where bamboo plants are growing in a mixture of rocks, wood chips and styrofoam. The water, nitrogen and phosphorous are used by the bamboo, while bacteria living in the growing medium break down carbohydrates and protein. There is reportedly little if any smell.

A diagram of the PPlanter

According to a report in New Scientist, a prototype has been tested in a crowded San Francisco neighborhood, where it stood up to use by over 300 people within an 8-hour period. The city has now ordered a permanent PPlanter. Hyphae hopes to rent the urinals out for use at special events, along with getting them to developing nations that lack proper sewers, and putting more of them on the streets.

The concept is outlined in the video below.

Sources: Hyphae Design Laboratory, PPlanter via New Scientist

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
6 Comments

Should be installed everywhere!

Now - Add a tank under the bamboo containing fast-growing fish - aquaculture - and the local soup kitchens could be suplied quite cheaply to feed the homeless.

The Skud
25th February, 2014 @ 08:33 pm PST

Do they make PooPlanters, too? :D

Efstratios Stratos Psarianos
26th February, 2014 @ 08:26 am PST

I wonder how women pee in that system?

Akemai Olivia
26th February, 2014 @ 12:28 pm PST

And a solar panel roof to drive the pump, and collect at least some rainwater, would be a great addition.

PeterRnz
26th February, 2014 @ 04:08 pm PST

the smell will still be there

John Sweet
27th February, 2014 @ 11:38 am PST

@ Efstratios Stratos Psarianos: For a PooPlanter, do a search for "Living Machine."

@ Akemai Olivia: The article says they provide disposable funnels for women. As it's possible to make paper from bamboo, I suppose the bamboo could be used as the source material for the disposable funnels as well.

John Banister
27th February, 2014 @ 12:05 pm PST
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