Headlines: Heard of PPlanter? Is It Coming to a Street Near You?

March 11, 2014 – On the streets of San Francisco PPlanter is both a place to pee and a garden. A finalist in that city’s Urban Protoyping Festival, the PPlanter provides access for both men and women to a pee station equipped with sink and biofilters to turn the urine and wastewater into irrigation for local shrubbery and soluble fertilizer. It is the inspiration of Hyphae Design Lab, an Oakland, California ecological engineering company. The prototype has been tested initially in May 2013 on the streets of San Francisco.

San Francisco, like many other urban communities, has a problem with its human population having to go and as a result of unpleasant incidents of public urination and the accompanying smell, has given PPlanter a $180,000 U.S. Community Challenge Grant. As an alternative to public toilets which apparently have been abused and trashed by San Franciscans (see the video), the PPlanter  contains a 190-liter (50 gallon) drum of water accompanied by a charcoal filter and zeolite, a substance that suppresses ammonia, the principle cause of urine odor.

To justify the project the Hyphae Design Lab have mapped the areas within San Francisco where public urination is proving to a be a significant odoriferous problem. They have supplied San Franciscan with an online app called PeeMapper to report locations for planning where future PPlanters should go.

Patrons pee behind a screened area and then use the foot-pump activated sink to wash their hands with water from the drum. For women PPlanter provides a disposable funnel to allow them to pee standing up. Both the urinal and sink get flushed with the fluid passing through a dosing tank containing the biofiltration system. The water is then fed to the discretely placed plants that serve three purposes – to provide a further filter, add greenery to the street and give further privacy to the urinater.  The denitrified urine is turned into plant soluble fertilizer.

And what grows well in filtered human urine? Apparently bamboo.




Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...