Parisian Street Urinals Turn Pee Into Compost

In many cities, getting caught peeing in public can saddle you with a hefty fine, or even land you in court. But there are simply not enough public restrooms to accommodate the needs of bar hoppers, the homeless, and people with weak bladders. Some cities have attempted to rectify this problem with free-standing bathrooms, while others have installed retractable urinals that rise up from the ground at night. (Amsterdam has a version that’s made for women to use, too.)

Paris is dealing with the perils of stray pee in a more attractive way, as Co.Design reports. Uritrottoir, a public urinal created by the Nantes-based design studio Faltazi, is a flower bed urinal that creates compost out of men’s pee. The city has bought two of the urinals so far, with plans to purchase more if they prove effective.

The flower boxes sit on top of a compost bin filled with hay. The urine is diverted into the straw, adding an extra source of nitrogen to the composting process. It doesn't directly provide compost to the flowers atop the bed, though; the plants are just for a little extra class. In order to make sure that no individual Urtrottoir overflows, the bins have wireless sensors, so someone can monitor the pee levels remotely and replace the bins, transporting the golden-soaked straw to a facility outside the city. According to The New York Times, it will cost around $865 a month to pay workers to clean the two toilets and haul away the pee-straw mix.

Faltazi previously created a funnel that can be installed in hay bales at music festivals to create outdoor, compost-friendly urinals in any location. Placed on sidewalks and in secluded corners, the flower-box version gives men out and about in the city an opportunity to relieve themselves in a way that doesn’t require a city cleanup crew. The boxes come with a privacy shield much like a regular urinal would have, so passersby don’t get an eyeful. And when no one is actively adding compost materials, they just look like a nice little flower bed.

It's a stand-up only design, though, so women will have to keep holding it for the foreseeable future.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images courtesy Faltazi.

Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP/Getty Images
Better Sit Down for This: Japan Wants to Modernize Its Squat Toilets for the Tokyo Olympics
Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP/Getty Images
Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP/Getty Images

Culture shock abounds in every foreign country, but few experiences can be as off-putting to an international tourist as walking into a bathroom and encountering a toilet you don't entirely know how to use. Perhaps that's why, in advance of the influx of tourists headed to Japan for the 2020 Summer Olympics, the country is looking to modernize its traditional squat toilets. According to Lonely Planet, the Japanese tourist ministry is trying to encourage municipalities to update their public restrooms with the Western-style toilets that visitors might be more accustomed to.

Though Japan is known for its elaborate, high-tech toilets with built-in bidets, seat heaters, and other perks, many of its public bathrooms have more simple accommodations. According to the country's tourist bureau, out of the 4000 public toilets near Japan's major tourist hot spots, around 42 percent are of the squatting variety rather than the kind with a raised bowl and seat. Now, squat toilets aren't just holes in the ground—they're usually made of the same materials most sitting toilets are and have flushing mechanisms. Except with a squat toilet, the flat ceramic pan is placed at ground level so you can crouch over it to do your business.

To make international visitors who are particular about their toilets more comfortable as they tour Japan, the Japan Tourism Agency has started offering subsidies for local governments that want to renovate their public restrooms. These grants are also available to private businesses and councils, according to Lonely Planet. The money can be used to either add more Western-style toilets or update existing models. (We can only hope some will take the opportunity to buy the kind that plays music.)

It's a bit of a shame that the Japanese government is so invested in getting rid of the country's squat toilets, because squatting is probably better for your health, at least when it comes to hemorrhoids. But at least it will be a welcome change for people with bad knees.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

A Very Brief History of Chamber Pots

Some of the oldest chamber pots found by archeologists have been discovered in ancient Greece, but portable toilets have come a long way since then. Whether referred to as "the Jordan" (possibly a reference to the river), "Oliver's Skull" (maybe a nod to Oliver Cromwell's perambulating cranium), or "the Looking Glass" (because doctors would examine urine for diagnosis), they were an essential fact of life in houses and on the road for centuries. In this video from the Wellcome Collection, Visitor Experience Assistant Rob Bidder discusses two 19th century chamber pots in the museum while offering a brief survey of the use of chamber pots in Britain (including why they were particularly useful in wartime).


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