There is a big chance that most of the food you're eating today was not sustainably farmed. The worldwide system of food production is the largest human impact on the natural cycles of phosphorus and nitrogen of the planet.
The amount of crops which can grow is limited by the amount of the said two elements in the soil, and that is why they are used as fertilizers.
Nevertheless, according to scientific reports say, fertilizers are made either by "converting nitrogen in the air to ammonia," which on its own consumes two percent of the energy of the world and heavily depends on fossil fuel; or, by "mining finite resources" like phosphate rock.
One solution to this problem could be quite closer than people imagine and realize. The majority of the nutrients we consume in food are passed in our urine since our bodies have already received enough.
However, instead of being recollected, these nutrients are flushed, diluted, and delivered to wastewater treatment plants where they are scrubbed out, leaving wastes that can be harmlessly released into the environment.
The wastewater part is the richest in nutrients in the urine of humans, making up less than one percent of the total volume, although it has 80 percent of the nitrogen and 50 percent of the phosphorus.
Here, read on and discover how urine is recycled into valuable, not to mention, sustainable farmland fertilizer.
How Urine is Recycled
You can collect urine using separate toilets that separate it from feces after flushing. However, since urine is composed mostly of water, farmers would need to spread 15,000 kilograms of it just to have a hectare of land fertilized.
If there were a way to eliminate water and extract only the nutrients, farmers would have to use 400 kilograms of it for a similar impact.
Water evaporation from urine is surprisingly a challenge as urine is said to be a complex chemical solution. Nearly all of the essential nitrogen in urine is in the form of a chemical called urea, that's used as the most commonly applied nitrogen fertilizer in the world.
However, a rapid-acting enzyme, also known as urease, invariably exists inside wastewater pipes and converts urea to ammonia.
When the ammonia gets exposed to air, taking the nitrogen from the urine with it and giving off an extremely pungent odor like that of the stale urine odor we smell in public toilets.
Discovery in Increasing pH of Urine to Make Alkaline
Luckily, there's the discovery that increasing urine's pH to make it alkaline guarantees the urea does not break down or end up smelling undeniably bad.
Using the strategy, scientists developed a process that can lessen the volume of urine and convert it into a solid fertilizer. Such an approach is called alkaline urine dehydration.
The notion behind it is relatively simple. Fresh urine gets collected from urinals or specially designed toilets and have them channeled into a dryer where an alkalizing agent like calcium or magnesium hydroxide increases its pH.
More so, any water in the now-alkaline urine is evaporated, and just the nutrients are left behind. Scientists elaborated, the evaporated water can even be condensed and used for flushing toilets or washing hands.
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