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Home > Articles > Urine is Valuable!  Can We Stop Flushing It Now?

Urine is Valuable!  Can We Stop Flushing It Now?

Posted: Wed, December 05, 2012 | By: Hank Pellissier

Humanity has been pissing away a hugely important personal fluid.  It’s a liquid we demean as  “waste” and regard as disgusting, but research in the last month has unveiled it - again - as immensely important, medically and environmentally. 

I’m talking about Pee. Urine. Our hot salty private spray that we swirl down the toilet bowl. 

Billions of liters of drinkable water are squandered to make piss disappear, because we think it’s repulsively useless. But it’s not. We actually need it.

Yes, this is yellow journalism.

Piss’s reputation has been amazingly elevated by scientists in recent weeks. November 2012 will be remembered as a break-out month for urine,  Redemption Time.

pluripotent stem cell
pluripotent stem cell

On November 8, Nature Protocols 7 published a report entitled, “Generation of human induced pluripotent stem cells from urine samples” by the research team of  Ting Zhou and twenty other scientists at the Stem Cell and Cancer Biology Group, Key Laboratory of Regenerative Biology, South China Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China.

The study detailed a far easier method of acquiring human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) - using exfoliated renalepithelial cells present in urine - than the present “invasive procedure that requires laborious isolation.” Obtaining pee-derived iPSCs is “cost effective and universal (can be applied to any age, gender and race)… reasonably quick- around 2 weeks for the urinary cell culture and 3-4 weeks for the reprogramming - and the yield of iPSC colonies is generally high - up to 4% using retroviral delivery of exogenous factors.”

Additionally, the urinary iPSCs exhibit “excellent differentiation potential, and thus represent a good choice for producing pluripotent cells from normal individuals or patients with genetic diseases, including those affecting the kidney.”

What does all this mean? For one thing, as noted, the new urine-derived work perhaps “makes stem cell research about as ethically questionable as a pit stop.”

A more thorough explanation - with a huge volume of rather draining 469 comments and 2,366 upvotes - is available on reddit HERE

Urine Value also splashed out of Nigeria. On November 25, reported that four teenage girls attending Doregos Private Academy School in Lagos had developed a generator powered by urine. The pee-powered DIY innovation was revealed at Maker Fair Africa.

[Africans + Girls + Teenagers = Breakthrough Inventors!?! This is indeed cause for celebration!]

One of the students, Enioloa Bello, defined their motivation and focus: “many Nigerians…have virtually been put out of business because of the high cost of power, so we decided to make a device that will reduce this problem. We noticed that waste products can be used to generate energy that is why we decided to experiment on urine.”

Another student, Adebola Duro-Aina, noted that their generator can be powered for 36 hours on six liters of urine. How does it work? “Urine is being electrolyzed,” she explained to allafrica,“releasing hydrogen and oxygen gas…this then goes into our gas tank [which] stores the gases… anytime we need the gas we can open up the gas tank and release the gas and our generator is powered.”

The girls lit up all the light bulbs in the display room, with their generator. “[It] powers everything in the house,” they smiled, as they described their previous frustration with not being able to read at night or watch television, due to erratic electric supplies. Their invention promises major relief to residents in developing areas.

A video depicting the girls resourcefulness is below:

With these two breakthroughs, isn’t it time we started reforming the wasteful way we wash away this non-waste? 

Truth is, it’s long past time. Three years ago, writer Josh Harkinson asserted this in a Mother Jones article, titled “Trickle Down Theory”:

“IF IT’S YELLOW, LET IT MELLOW.” … Toilets are the single biggest consumers of indoor household water, using some 64,000 gallons a second across the United States… Nutrient rich and superabundant, urine is a top-rate fertilizer. One person’s yearly output contains enough nutrients to fertilize up to a tenth of an acre of fruits and veggies. 

…not everybody sends it to the sewer. For more than a decade, 130 households in Stockholm, Sweden, have collected their urine—nearly 40,000 gallons of it per year—and trucked it off to be sprayed on crops. More than 600,000 Chinese households in at least 17 provinces use special urine-diverting toilets to fertilize crops such as sugarcane, watermelons, and peanuts. Farming communities in 17 African countries have also taken up the practice of collecting urine. And in the central Mexican village of Tepoztlán, an environmental group wheels a urine-collecting porta-potty to fiestas and uses the cache on local fields.”


Many health professionals even claim drinking urine has beneficial effects (an estimated 2 million in Japan!). I’ve sampled the beverage myself, and written about it, in an acrid essay titled “The Totally Recycled Beverage”

hydrogen from urine
hydrogen from urine

So, with all this evidence, are you personally, yes… YOU - will you flush your pee down the toilet today?  

I wonder… In the future, will we save our “Number One” in cherished vials, for stem cell researchers to utilize? 

Will we urinate directly into tanks in our off-the-grid houses, that power our personal electrical supply?  After spraying a few nutritious drops on our hydroponic plants?

Its exhilarating to learn we’re not as biologically disgusting as we once believed. 

Be proud!  

We’re organic machines, chemical factories, pumping out the precious fluid of pee.


In order for it to make it in the US, it would need to be odor-free, germ-free, and easy to put somewhere we wouldn’t see it; hen the uses would have to be given catchy names, like Pee-tunia and Power Pee-lant only better, and graphs showing how it saves both money and the environment.

By Kennita Watson on Dec 05, 2012 at 12:36pm

I’d take a urine-diverting toilet if science wants my pee, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go. I will NOT collect my urine by hand. I’d sooner lean against the back of my house to pee.

By Z on Dec 06, 2012 at 9:19am

I believe it’s illegal to divert your waste onto your property (instead of into the sewers) in many places.  The whole notion of sewage collecting in someone’s backyard is terrifying.  It makes people think of Third World countries.  But having said all that, I’m going to start to think of ways to accomplish it.  I guess I could start peeing into a large canister on my back porch.  And I could occasionally dump that canister into my yard.  It would save me money in 3 ways: 1) a smaller water bill from the water I would have used flushing the toilet, 2) an even smaller water bill from the water I would have used from the garden hose to water my yard, and 3) free fertilizer.  Now I just need to ponder whether I’d be dumping flu virus pathogens into my yard every winter.

By NameWithheld on Dec 06, 2012 at 5:34pm

I have been given to believe that urine is sterile when it leaves the body.  I’d believe it; high-molar uric acid would probably kill most germs.

By Kennita Watson on Dec 06, 2012 at 10:18pm

Ahhh….  guys….  If you are going to write about science, try understanding some.  The “generator” “invented” in Nigeria is a perpetual motion machine!  The way you “electrolyze” urine is to pass electricity through it.  WAY, WAY more electricity than you could EVER get back from burning the reualting hydrogen and oxygen.

For anybody who actually believes that this would work, I am a Prince from Nigeria and I have $5 million dollars just for you…

By Bill K. on Dec 07, 2012 at 1:36pm

@Bill - LOL - i caught that too…....darn, no free lunch!  And, if yer gonna electrolyse water, there’s better electrolytes than piss - phew! Can u imagine the stink after a few hours of electrolysis?

By bitrat on Dec 08, 2012 at 11:11am

Remember if you use it as fertilizer to dilute it 1:10. That is 1 part urine to 10 parts water. I’ve been doing this for years now and my gardens are amazing. Both ornamental as well as vegetable/fruit.

By deborah on Dec 10, 2012 at 2:10pm

wow.. im in the library, and dont have sound. so i dont know if the video told of cost efishent, or not. and would like to know… also,,, were to get more info, on the subject.. thk, you

By robert winterholler on Dec 11, 2012 at 9:59am

I am collecting my pee 4 years ago until now. While the collected urine were sprayed to my veggies. But of course I mixed it with water also.

By Eddie on Jan 02, 2013 at 8:39pm

this comment is from Roger Hansen, He sent it to me to post -

“The Roman Emperor Vespasian had the produce of the Rome’s urinals collected, decanted and stored in cisterns, taxed, and sold to the guild of fullers (Suetonius, p. 319). (The fullers were the dry cleaners of Rome. They had discovered that the ammonia in urine had cleaning properties.)

The Emperor’s son Titus, a more genteel individual, protested against the new tax. But pushing a coin beneath his son’s nose, Vespasian reminded him, in one of his best know phrases, that “gold has no odor”.

When the emperor came to power, Rome was bankrupt; when he died it was not. Thus, it may well be that recycling human waste helped restore the Empire to economic well being. (The Emperor’s illustrious name lives on in the vespasiennes, Parisian pissoirs in the graceful shape of sentry boxes.)

If you examine the Roman-Empire-era latrines, you notice that they have a strange configuration.  I wonder if this configuration was useful in the collection of urine?”

By Hank Pellissier on Mar 04, 2013 at 2:17pm

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