An average person produces around 500 litres of urine per year, which makes urine one of the principal excreta of human origin. Urine was seen as a waste product causing severe problems on the environment and challenging wastewater treatment systems, however, during the last decades urine was seen more and more as a valuable resource. Therefore, also research increased on the utilisation of urine tackling its challenges.
Access to clean water and sanitation is one of the essential human rights, as recognised by the UN. As many as 2.4 billion people still live without an improved sanitation system and almost 1 million people practice open defecation. Sanitation systems have a big impact on the environment in regard to discharges to water bodies, air emissions, soil degradation and use and reuse of natural resources. New approaches in sanitation and irrigation should be pursued, aiming towards public health, water savings and water pollution prevention. Urine utilisation can help to achieve these aims and recycle the nutrients from human excreta. However, it is important to remember that if urine is not managed properly, the risk of pathogen transmission, as well as the risk of soil salinization and the strong and offensive odour of urine can cause significant health problems and discomfort.
Urine utilisation can minimise these diverse negative impacts on the environment. Unlike faeces, urine contains no or very few pathogens and contains four important nutrients for plant growth: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and sulfur (S). Therefore, the utilisation of urine does not only lower the pressure on wastewater systems, it also can replace in certain cases expensive mineral fertilisers.
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