Monday, August 11, 2008

Pee green: waterless urinals saving 22,000 tons of water a year at Nankai Electric Railway


waterless urinals at train stations photo

Nankai Electric Railway has introduced 73 waterless urinals at 18 stations on the Nankai and Koya train lines in Osaka, Japan. The urinals are the first of their kind in Japan and provide savings of around 22,000 metric tons of water and 12.7 metric tons of CO2 a year.

There has been some controversy over waterless urinals, notable opponents including the plumber’s union of Philadelphia. However, joint research by Falcon Waterfree Technologies and UCLA, as well as research by other independent bodies, suggests environmental, economical and health benefits beyond saving water include improved hygiene compared to manual flush urinals (although these are uncommon in Japan as most flush urinals use automatic sensors), lower maintenance costs and energy savings leading to reductions in CO2 output.

Waterless urinals generally look and function much like a regular flush urinal and connect to the standard plumbing system. The notable difference is in the use of specially-designed cartridges containing oil-based liquids designed to filter urine and trap odors. As urine is composed of around 96% water and is free of bacteria and viruses, the urine simply passes through the filter and joins the normal waste stream. The filters are recyclable and the liquids are not considered to be harmful to the environment.

In water-strapped countries like Australia, most people are familiar with the water-saving mantra “if it’s brown, flush it down, if it’s yellow, let it mellow” but waterless urinals have only recently started to become widely accepted. With the introduction of environmentally friendly building standards such as the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™) standard by the US Green Building Council, waterless urinals are also becoming an important criteria for developers wishing to get green ratings for new buildings.

Unfortunately, the ladies out there won’t get to experience the new system, but relieved men will be happy to know that the environmental impact of the number one has been significantly reduced.

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