If you can’t beat ’em, enjoin ’em: France is tackling public urination by whipping out greenery-topped, compost-generating “Uritrottoir” urinals.
Doing a wee-wee in public is a no-no just about everywhere, and for a host of obvious reasons. Unfortunately, drinkers gonna drink and when public restrooms are unavailable, well… what goes in must come out, anywhere and everywhere. Yuck. Sure, we could punish protagonists of les pipis sauvages (“wild peeing”) by painting walls with so-called “splash back” paint but it’s an imperfect solution: the urine has to go somewhere and though the walls stay clean, the drunk and everything around them gets doused. Why not find a kinder, gentler, more useful way to tackle the issue?
It would seem someone’s done just that. French industrial design firm Faltazi has come up with the Uritrottoir – the name is derived from the French words for “urinal” and “pavement”. This urbane urban urinal looks like a street mailbox with a wee, er, little herb garden growing out of the top. The interior is filled with compostible bio-materials such as straw, wood chips and sawdust that absorb moisture and reduce odor. “We’re making compost, a fertiliser, so it’s a circular economy,” explained Laurent Lebot of Faltazi to The Guardian newspaper. “We’re re-using two waste products, straw and urine, to make something that makes plants grow.” That, and keeping urine off the streets… sounds like a match made in heaven!
Urine is rich in nitrogen and potassium – compounds plants crave even more than Brawndo. It seems a shame to let these natural fertilizers go down the drain, as it were, and the Uritrottoir urinal retains them in its interior bed of organic material until the “urine attendant” (and you thought your job stunk) comes around to switch out the bin. How do they know when it’s full? Glad you asked: an integral electronic monitoring system alerts the attendants when the urinal’s bin is sufficiently soaked.
Uritrottoirs are waterproof, graffiti-proof, and come in three shapes/sizes: Large (240 litres), Small (120 litres), and Corner (110 litres). That works out to 600, 300, and 275 “passages”, respectively. Don’t ask us how Faltazi knows this, they just do. The boxes also come with red, blue, green, gray or white plastic upper portions complemented by plain metal lower bodies.
Unlike some of Faltazi’s other urine-control devices such as L’Uritonnoir – basically a plastic funnel that can be inserted into hay bales at music festivals – the Uritrottoir is designed for use in urban environments. One of the first real-world tests took place outside the Gare de Lyon, France’s third-busiest railway station. It seems passengers were, how shall we put it, lightening their load before boarding. “I am optimistic it will work,” stated Maxime Bourette, a maintenance official with SNCF, France’s public railway authority. “Everyone is tired of the mess.”
Mind you, there’s a price to be paid for pee-free public places and spaces. According to the New York Times, SNCF paid just under $10,000 for TWO bright red Uritrottoirs… it’s the F-35 of public urinals! By the way, readers of the fairer sex may be wondering why Faltazi’s left them out of the equation. “We had thought this was mainly a problem involving men,” admits Laurent Lebot, “but it seems not. We haven’t solved the problem in its entirety. For women, the solution isn’t so simple.” Amen, brother!