June 21, 2022 | Markets, Soil Health


Top: Rich Earth collects urine at public events using modified portable toilets. Photo courtesy Rich Earth Institute

The Rich Earth Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont, founded in 2012, “explores all aspects of peecycling — urine collection, transport, treatment and farm application,” notes a description of the Institute on its website. The organization’s Urine Nutrient Reclamation Program grew out of local support for the practice of peecycling. “In 2012, the first year of the program, we collected 600 gallons of urine from 60 urine donors. … In 2021, we had 180 donors and collected over 12,000 gallons of urine,” continues the description. “We currently have four farm partners who apply the urine to their hay fields. And we have a far higher demand for urine than we can currently provide!”

BioCycle stopped in at the Institute’s showroom in 2018 while visiting the Windham Solid Waste Management District’s source separated organics composting facility in Brattleboro, which is on an adjacent property. At the time, there was a prototype of a “porta-potty” unit that could be used at public events. Today, Rich Earth Institute has portable urine-collecting rentals available.

Rich Earth Institute’s Urine Nutrient Reclamation Program. Image courtesy Rich Earth Institute

The practical benefits of turning urine into fertilizer were highlighted in a June 17 New York Times article that featured Rich Earth Institute, along with a project in rural Niger, where researchers tested the concept of utilizing the nutrients in human urine as a fertilizer on depleted soils. In the Nigar project, urine is collected and pasteurized in jugs for two months, then applied plant by plant. If the soil is wet, the urine can be applied directly; if it is dry, the urine is diluted in a 1:1 ratio with water. The project grew into an enterprise, where “entrepreneurial young farmers have taken to collecting, storing and selling urine,” reports the Times. “The price has spiked in the last couple of years, from about $1 for 25 liters to $6.”

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