Michigan professors promote “peony pee” urinary diversion program

Ann Arbor, Michigan (AP) — Two researchers at the University of Michigan put “pee” in a peony.

Rather, they put their pee on the peony.

Professors of Environmental Engineering Nancy Love and Christa Wiggington regularly visit the Nichols Botanical Gardens at Ann Arbor School. There, urine-based fertilizer is applied to the peony bed of the heirloom before the flowers bloom every spring.

Educating the general public about their research showing that the application of fertilizers derived from nutrient-rich urine may bring environmental and economic benefits is all part of the effort.

“At first I thought people might hesitate. You know, this may be strange, but we rarely experience that attitude,” Wiggington said. I did. “In general, people find it interesting at first, but then they understand why we are doing it and they support it.”

Love, a co-author of a study published in the Journal of Environmental Science & Technology, found that urinary diversion and recycling led to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and energy.

Urine contains essential nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus and has been used as a fertilizer for crops for thousands of years.

Love says that collecting human urine and using it to make renewable fertilizers will increase the sustainability of the environment as part of what she calls the “circular economy of nutrients.” Said.

Think of it as “pee cycling” rather than recycling.

“We were looking for a term that we could understand, but we were able to spread the idea.” Pee cycling “seems to be a dead end,” she said.

As part of a $ 3 million grant from the National Science Foundation awarded in 2016, Love and Wiggington are not only testing advanced urine treatments, but also investigating people’s attitudes towards the use of urine-derived fertilizers. increase.

That’s why they took them to the beloved campus Peony Garden. From the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, there are more than 270 historic cultivars representing American, Canadian and European peony. The garden is full with nearly 800 peony, with up to 10,000 flowers at the peak of flowering.

Love and Wigginton will chat with visitors on weekends in May and June. One of the important lessons they learned is about the accuracy of the language.

“We used the term” peony pee “. And it attracts people’s attention and we can talk to them about the flow of nutrients in our community, the efficiency of nutrients, and how to make them more sustainable, “Love said. To peony.

“That’s why I’m going to use’Peony’s Pee’this year. I hope there’s no such confusion.”

The urine-derived fertilizer that researchers have recently used was born in Vermont. But if everything goes according to plan, they will run out of some locally sourced fertilizer next year.

The Campus Engineering Building’s split bowl toilets are designed to send solid waste to a processing plant while sending urine downstairs to a storage tank. The urine and urinals diverted from the toilet were processed and eventually used to produce fertilizer, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the school to stop collecting.

Meanwhile, the facility is upgrading to freeze-concentrators and adding new, more energy-efficient pasteurizers developed by the Vermont-based Rich Earth Institute.

“The whole idea is to cycle within the community, so we want to get urine out of this community and apply it within this community,” says Wigginton.