Urine for sale? South African city wants to buy

Get paid to pee. That's the deal on offer in the South African city of Durban, where the city is looking to buy liquid waste to encourage residents to use dry toilets.

Aiming to improve hygiene and save money, the port city has installed in home gardens about 90,000 toilets that don't use a single drop of water.

Now Durban wants to install 20-litre (quart) containers on 500 of the toilets to capture urine - rich in nitrates, phosphorus and potassium, which can be turned into fertiliser.

A municipal worker would collect the jerry cans once a week and could pay around 30 rands (four dollars, three euros) to the family - not a small sum in a country where 43 percent of the population lives on less than two dollars a day.

Currently the tanks are emptied by each household, and the waste often ends up getting dumped into the environment.

Swiss lab Eawag and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are backing a study to draw up the modalities for the scheme, which is already winning fans.

"If we can turn the toilets into a source of revenues, then they will want to use the toilets," said Neil MacLeod, Durban's head of water and sanitation.

Most people are reluctant to use the dry toilets. In the sprawling township of Inanda, residents have ripped doors and roofs off the outhouses, annexed them to the main house, or completely stripped them away.

Discussing bodily fluids is so taboo that people are reluctant to explain their discomfort. One young mother accused thieves of stealing "the door and the toilet" from her outhouse, which she now uses as a garage.

"When the (city) council brings the toilets to them, they look at it as an inferior system," said Lucky Sibiya, an outreach officer with the water department.

"People don't understand how important it is," he said. "There is a belief saying that touching the faeces brings misfortune."

As soon as they can afford it, people invest in a septic tank and abandon the dry toilets, which require spreading a layer of sand after each use and using separate sections for the urine and the solid waste. The tanks then must be emptied regularly.

Dry toilets were invented in Yemen centuries ago.

"They work well in rural areas because the fertiliser produced from the urine and the faeces is used locally," said Pierre-Yves Oger, a water and sanitation consultant based in South Africa.

"But in urban areas, there's a dissociation between the producer (of the waste) and the user of the recycled products, and it's very hard to overcome the psychological block," he said.

That's why few cities have launched large-scale dry toilet projects. Durban began its programme in 2002 when a cholera outbreak revealed the lack of hygiene in a city where more than a quarter of the four million residents have no sanitation.

To avoid having to install an entire sanitation system, and to save water, Durban opted for dry toilets. The city remains convinced that was the right choice.

"South Africa is a water-stressed country," said Teddy Gounden, who heads the project. "With the increase in demand for drinking water, we cannot afford to flush this valuable resource down the sewer."

Sport
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
'Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows' by John Constable
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
musicYou'll have to ask Taylor Swift first
News
Joel Grey, now 82, won several awards for his role in Cabaret
people
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
Harry Kane celebrates scoring the opening goal for Spurs
footballLive: All the latest transfer news as deadline day looms
Arts and Entertainment
Master of ceremony: Jeremy Paxman
tvReview: Victory for Jeremy Paxman in this absorbing, revealing tale
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Communications Executive

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: SQL DBA (SSIS, ETL) - London, £60k

    £60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL DBA (SSIS, ETL) - Central London, £60,000...

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

    £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Agent / QA Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an est...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness