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article imageWhy Waterless Urinals Can be Eco-Friendly, But Smelly and Expensive

By David Silverberg     Aug 11, 2008 in Technology
Waterless urinals are making a splash in North America and overseas, but are they worth the bathroom retrofit? How green are these ceramic innovations? Learn how “peeing green” could be a hot trend coming to a bathroom near you.
Digital Journal — Bathroom breaks in busy restaurants and transit stations are the latest targets of green-friendly makeovers. Waterless urinals are saving tons of water at the Nankai Electric Railway stations in Osaka, Japan. A ski resort in Australia also installed those same urinals. What’s the big fuss — and controversy — over urinals designed to avoid rampant water use?
According to Nankai Electric Railway, their 73 waterless urinals in 18 stations have saved 22,000 metric tons of water and 12.7 metric tons of CO2 a year. How do they accomplish this feat? Waterless urinals resemble regular urinals except for one crucial difference — they contain oil-based cartridges made to filter urine and trap odours. The urine passes through the filter and joins the regular waste stream. Urine drains into a canister and is trapped under a sealant liquid. The filters are recyclable and the liquids are not known to be harmful to the environment.
Waterless urinals have been gaining momentum in the States, too. The Staples Centre in Los Angeles installed their own system and the Nokia Theater in L.A., where the American Idol finals were held, also installed waterless urinals. Adobe’s headquarters in San Jose ushered in waterless basins during their green retrofit. Many building managers use the systems in order to earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
Home urinals have also been introduced by innovative designers (even though they still raise eyebrows). Urinals in the home were recently designed by designer Kohler, which created a tubular design that “virtually eliminates splashing.” It also allows for “easy installation without tiling or drainline changes.”
But all is not well in the burgeoning world of peeing “green.” A Grand Rapids, MI, YMCA recently halted its waterless urinal trial because they were expensive to maintain and the unpleasant odours became too pervasive.
Also, a study found that retrofits can be cumbersome. “When replacing conventional urinals, removal of flush valves and capping of water supply lines will be necessary. Some remodeling may be required to lower the drain lines to bring the new waterless urinals to the proper mounting height.”
But the biggest complain of all? Well, this problem affects all urinals: women can’t experience this eco-friendly experiment, unless they want to squat uncomfortably for their bathroom session.
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