Urine collection, treatment and use from festivals

  • Karoliina
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Urine collection, treatment and use from festivals

Note by moderator (EvM): The next 8 posts used to be in this thread: forum.susana.org/173-urine-diversion-sys...eloped-world-context ("Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context") but have now been split off into this new thread for greater clarity.
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Dear all,

Many thnaks for an interesting topic, I see it has been discussed for a while already. I also think there should be more studies on the urine diversion systems and especially on the end use of urine in the developed country context. As Cecile said, there are already quite a few examples on the collection tehcniques and in different large public events separated urine is already collected for example in France and here in Finland. We also know that urine is a good source of nutrients for crops and it is estimated that we will be facing phosphorus shortage in the coming decades. However, as said above, the large volume in urine makes it difficult to handle, store and transport as well as use.

To study a bit more the re-use of urine we have been carrying out a project called BIOUREA in 2015-2016 here in Finland. The project aims at creating a model for and to test large scale utilisation of toilet based fertilizer products. Key objectives are to develop and test technologies for collection and management, acquire official acceptance and permit for using these fertilizers in agriculture in Finland, and to demonstrate the efficiency and safety of the use of these products. In addition, the cost efficiency of the alternative models and systems are estimated. The project is carried out by the Global Dry Toilet Association of Finland, the Tampere University of Applied Sciences and the Finnish Environment Institute by the funding of the Ministry of Environmnet of Finland.

The urine in our project was collected from a large music festival with urinals (and could someone come up with a working solution for women as well, please!) and from private donors (basically a household of four people that has a separating dry toilet in their house). We have already concluded that festivals would be a very easy starting point for the collection as it is easy to organize. We are, however also studying the possibility to alter the sanitation infrastructure in the long run, where urine would be collected separately from households. The Finnish Environment Institute is responsible in conducting a life cycle analysis on different sanitation solutions in the project ( current vs. collecting separated urine). This would make the treatment of waste waters a lot more efficient and easy.

What we have conluded in the project is that separated urine is an efficient fertilizer and safe to use when properly handled but that there needs to be further studies on how to manage the volume. One of our ideas is to study further the fabrication of struvite (mentioned above also, a technique well known already) but also how to collect the Nitrogen in the urine so that it is not lost in the process. Especially here in Finland we tend to use quite a lot of Nitrogen fertilizers so reuse of the N humans produce would be an interesting avenue.

So to sum it all up, the discussion about different urine diversion techniques is interesting and it would be nice to see new models in the field as well, but also the end use is, in my opinion, a very important topic that needs further discussion. Maybe these two thems could also be connected by coming up with a new concept for urine diverion where the toilet itself would treat the urine to a form more easy to handle. We are planning to continue studying this theme and further develope the idea of extracting struvite and Nitrogen as well as the collection techniques both in lagre events as well as in household level. Should you want more information about the project please visit: www.huussi.net/en/activities/on-going-projects/biourea/

If you have any questions or ideas, you can contact me directly in: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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  • cecile
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

Dear Karoliina,

This is an extremely interesting contribution from Finland!
Does the legal framework in Finland authorise using urine and treated faeces in agriculture? What is the attitude of farmers with regards to urine / composted faeces reuse?

Do I understand well that now the scientific challenge is to manage recovering N from urine after phosphorous was already extracted?
What scale/volumes are you referring to when you explain that you have reached a limit with regards to logistics? Because our economies are based on transport and we are transporting in our countries huge amounts of liquids such as milk, fuel, juice, waste water, etc. sometimes from all over the world. What makes it more difficult logistically speaking with urine? The cost of transport compared to the value of 1m3 of urine?

Are all the festivals in Finland using dry toilets? Is this an obligation? The municipality of Paris is planning on making it compulsory for all festival to use sustainable toilets in the future. It will be interesting to see what end of the chain solutions they come up with.

it would be nice to see new models in the field as well, but also the end use is, in my opinion, a very important topic that needs further discussion. Maybe these two thems could also be connected by coming up with a new concept for urine diversion where the toilet itself would treat the urine to a form more easy to handle

I had the opportunity to visit a project during the summer which combines toilet provision and on site struvite production. It is made of a mobile toilets block (in a container)lined to a struvite reactor (in another container). The link is in French but you can the pictures, it will give you an idea: ecosec.fr/inauguration-du-1er-reacteur-a...ite-mobile-au-monde/

Regards,

Cécile Laborderie
MAKATI Environnement
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  • Karoliina
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

Dear Cecile,

Many thanks for your prompt answer and very good questions. I will try to answer them best I can!

The legistlation does not authorize the use of separated urine at the moment. This is due to the fact that urine does not have official fertilixer status at the moment. Our Finnish Food Safety Authority is the one that allows the use of new fertilizers and they demand certain information before officil aproval. In this project one of the aims is to produce this information and thus facilitate the official approval of urine as a fertilizer. As this is a pilot project, we have permission to use urine in field conditions. It is also allowed in private use (household use) but you cannot sell or give it to an outsider. The case with faeces is a bit more complicated, the use of sludge is allowed in certain conditions but it has to be treated (such as stabilization etc.) and dry toilet compost in this case would be treated as sludge.

At the moment we have used urine in its liquid form but have already concluded that with the nurtient values we had in the urine (quite low), using it as such would not be feasible (the sheer amount you would have to use in the field is very large calculated according to the N value in the urine and using 54kg N/hectar) and it has been calculated that with the transportation costs here in Finland, it is not nor will it be economical in the near future. And as the idea is to make urine as economically and otherwise feasible as using chemical fertilizers, this would be an issue when using urine as such. Basically the only feasible way to use separated urine as such would be if it was produced in the vicinity from the end user. We have made struvite tests in this project as well but it has not been wide scale. However we know the technology and have made some calculations about the cost and efficiency. How to recover the N is still under debate and we want to continue with that in the future.

And concerning your question about the technology. Not all festivals use dry toilets in Finland and it is not cimpulsary (but interesting to hear this bout Paris!!) but the idea is getting more and more common and especially urinals for men are getting more and more popular. We have a couple of big and medium size companies that already offer this solution for festivals and the interest for this technology (and especially for recovering the nutrients as well) is of increasing interest. We also have quite a lot of public places that have started to use waterless urinals (for example a large petrol station chain called ABC)and this would be one interesting way to collect nutrients as well.

And to conclude, special thanks for the link, this is a very interesting development and very nice to see somebody has already had the same idea! I shall take a closer look and hope that my French is sufficient :)

Best wishes,
Karoliina Tuukkanen
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  • cecile
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

FYI I am keeping the French ecological sanitation network updated with this conversation as French stakeholders are also struggling to upscale sustainable sanitation (including UD) in France. From France we always take northern countries as examples of best practice, hence I am surprised to see that using urine a fertiliser is not authorised yet in Finland. In France there are also pilots with universities and authorisation to use urine on private parcels only.
Finland, Sweden, Germany are an inspiration to us, maybe the same way the global south is looking up to the global north. A powerful way to enhance urine recycling in the south is to upscale it in the north!
54kg N/hectare = 900 liters of urine/hectare, once or twice a year?
If the capacity of a tanker truck is 35m3 this means one trip would fertilize 35 hectares. Am I right? Is this a bigger volume compared to the volume of chemical fertilisers? I assume the dilution of urine with water takes place on site so it multiplies the volume of liquid to be spread by roughly 10 but this does not impact transport right?
I attended a webinar on the Topic of Getting to Scale ( link here )last week and amongst the lessons learned one was to :
- Partner with one or to big actors
- "Dance" with them ("real cooperation")
- Design with partners from the beginning.
Did you manage to partner with producers / importers of chemical fertilisers? And or with big agricultural producers? What is their point of view?
Sorry about all these questions but I think the developed world needs to know more about the kind of projects you are designing, the barriers and the way to overcome them.
Kind regards,

Cécile Laborderie
MAKATI Environnement
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  • Karoliina
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

Dear Cecile,

Thanks for the further questiosn, I am more than happy to answer them as this is a subject close to my heart as well!

The use of urine is not prohibited as such here, there is no law against it and it can be used in private land (so for example people with diverting dry toilets can use urine in their own garden, for example I have a diverting dry toilet in my allotment garden and my cabbages grow really well...), but as no actor has had the economical interest in using urine, no one has applied for the official fertilizer status with the Finnish Food and Safety Authority. This can be done in the future but we are still lacking an actor that would be interested in developing a fertilizer from urine. As the case is here, it is only fessible for an actor with and economic interest in developing urine based fertilizers to apply for the status. We have all the necessary data for the application process now, gathered from our project.

As to the amount of urine per hectar, as said, we had very low N and P values in our urine, we think this might be because we collected it form festivals where people drink a lot and the urine dilutes. We had 2,8g of N per litre so this would mean appr. 19300 litres of urine per hectar (900 litres of urine would only be 2,52 kg of N). I hope my quick calculations were correct... Imagine a field 100 hectars or so, the sheer amount of urine would be quite impressive. And especially considering that the amount of N required in our fields can easily go up to 100kg/N/hectar. So this is why the problem arises with the storing, transportation and usage. And in professional use no dilution is done, one of the main points of our project was to cooperate with farmers in order to find out the best practices for them and it became very clear quite quickly that no farmer is willing to dilute the fertilizer and for exmaple applying the urine in two different rounds (which we already know is the best practice growth-wise from former studies) was too much work. So we did only one application at the beginning of the growth season. It became clear immediately that if we want to promote using urine, it has to be as easy and simple as using chemical fertilizers or the farmers will not adopt the technique.

We have indeed had quite extensive discussions with farmers, producers and for example end buyers and this is why we also decided to carry our the project together with farmers in "real" conditions. What was surprising to us was that the farmers do not seem to care that much about where the nutrients come from as long as they work (we actually presumed there would be more prejudice against using urine amongst the farmers and were surprised that we got alot of interested contacts from farmers when we were searching for partners for the project) but what actually surpised us a bit was that we found some resistance amongst the end buyers. We were contacted by a company that buys barley (which was the crops we used in our test fields) and they were very explicit about not buying products fertilized by sludge. We did of course explain that urine is quite a different case than sludge but as there are no cases of urine used in large scale farming before our project, many actors put urine in the same compartment as sludge. So we still have quite a lot of promotion and information work to do. The larger fertilizer companies have not shown much interest towards this theme as it is, but we are hoping of course to change this little by little and find a company that would be interested in manufacturing urine based fertilizers. This however, still requires a bit more research into feasible ways of treating urine.

I hope this answers your questions!! I am also very happy you have shared this info in other platforms and if anybody has any futher questions, I can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Best regards,
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

Thanks Karoliina, what you report on the trials with the farmers is very interesting. I had considered 6gN/liter of urine as a rule of thumb for N content and indeed the source of collection has a significant impact.,

I am not surprised by the current lack of interest of the chemical fertilisers companies. Currently the economic value of urine (and current cost of struvite production) does not make is profitable to trigger the private sector's interest for large scale applications. As Carol's post mentions,

In fact, wastewater treatment plants in the Pacific Northwest have been producing high quality proprietary struvite for years

, another "big" emerging partner could well be the waste water treatment plants/ companies. Current exchanges in France seem to show that the major WWT companies (Véolia and Suez), have shown more and more interest research related to P and N recovery.
Please keep us update with the development of your project!
Kind regards,
Cécile

Cécile Laborderie
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

Dear All,

I'd like to add up some thoughts to this very interesting discussion.

We (ecosec, cooperative young company) have been promoting dry separation toilets (ecodomeo system) in the south of france with a buried drip irrigation system connected to it. In order to do that, we ordered a paper from a layer that managed to mention "Irrigating with urine isn't illegal but actually isn't covered by any law". This paper usually is enought to reassure deciders that want a toilet in their tourist spot but isn't working for farmers when we come asking them if they're ready to reuse 10 m3 of festival urine. We therefore needed a survey in french to reassure them on the following :
  • Urine won't clog their drip irrigation emitters
  • Salinity of urine won't affect their crop or soil
  • Pharmaceutical residus won't appear in their crop, soil or in the ground water

These three points are capital to the ones we visited, so we started a month ago an off groung survey on these points. Link to the summary . After a lot a bibliography research, we couldn't find one about pharmaceutical residues on off the ground tanks, that actually can show (or not) that these residues are "digested" by the soil activity. We'll publish on this forum the results we'll find in about 4-6 months.

On another hand, we've been working on a struvite show reactor for festival (inspired from the amsterdam experience) with our partners WC Loc, working on live in festival, that allows us to distribute struvite to the toilet users straight after they finish urinating. Link to the Flyer / Photos of the event

On the big scale, a group of researchers and industrial called the " European sustainable Phosphorous Plateform " is working on many projects. To be honnest we don't much about what they do but the NASKEO is the company which built the biggest struvite reactor (at the end of a wastewater plant) in France a few years ago. So far, they've been unable to reuse the struvite they produced (about 2 tones) for reglementary reasons. Even industrials suffer from the reglementation, hoping this will change soon.

The SIAAP (Organisation in charge of all Paris drinlable water and wastewater)is working on the subject and proposed us to get in touch with the Paris garden nurseries (no alimentation, everyone is reassured) to reuse our urine, we're meeting them soon and I'll keep you updated. Fabien ESCULIER is a great researcher at the Pont and Chaussé school and is working on an amazing global project trying to close the nutrient loop : OCAPI .


Last but not least, a very very intersting book (which I hope will be translated soon in english) has been released from a Nursery gardener in Grenoble : Urine, golden liquid to the garden

This is great that we can share here all our works and experiences, looking forward to the results of BioUrea and all other european project. Am really sorry moist of it is still in french, we're not so good to translate our works in english.

Best

Ben
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