News Release — Ron Krupp
Jan. 4, 2014
Can I put human urine in my compost pile or share it with others? The answer is yes and are you looking for a new source of fertilizer for your garden? Again, the answer is yes. Urine luck on both accounts. On a community level, The Rich Earth Institute (REI) of Brattleboro collected 3,000 gallons of urine from 350 people in 2013 to be spread on the fields of Fair Winds Farm. The REI Urine Brigade solicited volunteers in the community. Rebecca Rueter, a board member of Rich Earth invited members of the Brattleboro Women’s Chorus to contribute. Storage takes place in large receptacles along with lively conversations at the Brattleboro collection site.
The “ick’ factor of collecting urine is a potential barrier for some folks, but many people seem willing to adopt new urine diverting technologies. Some of the urine donors did not have access to urine diverting toilets and so they had to create simple devices to collect and deliver the urine. There are actually toilets that separate the “pee” from the “poop.”
On June 10th, 2012, 170 volunteers provided and recycled 600 gallons of urine to Fair Winds Farm. The farmer, Jay Bailey, is using his farmland as a test site. The urine is collected, transported, sanitized and applied as fertilizer to the hay field. As mentioned earlier, the project expanded to 3,000 gallons in 2013. This project was funded with grants by the USDA. A study found that the urine provided the same amount of fertilizer as synthetic chemical fertilizers to the strips of farmland for hay production.
Human urine contains larger quantities of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium than human manure. Extracting nutrient-laden urine from our wastewater stream could greatly reduce potable water consumption as well as alleviate pollution to our waterways. It will also create a source of local, inexpensive and abundant fertilizer.
Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been collecting 2 quarts of urine each day – depositing the liquid waste in my compost pile behind my house close to Lake Champlain, but not that close. When I had a farm in Saxton’s River in the 1970s, I had a two-seater I used extensively and mixed the ingredients into my windrows of animal compost and organic matter for the hayfield and gardens.
By the way, did you know that the average human produces 8 pounds of nitrogen and 1 pound of phosphorous in their urine each year.
And that Americans produce 30 billion gallons of urine annually and use 1.2 trillion gallons of drinkable water each year to flush it away or 4000 gallons per person. Finally, urine contains over 5,000 grams of fertilizer per person, enough to grow all the vegetables one needs for a year. So folks, why not get involved.
For photos of REI, go to the Brattleboro Reformer, for photos of the Rich Earth Institute. REI received the first USDA grant of its kind in the U.S. Contact Kim Nace, the director of REI for more information on how you can get involved in your own community.
Ron Krupp – author of The Woodchuck’s Guide to Gardening