Urine is not just a waste product of metabolism; it can be something more useful. Tinashe Chipako, a graduate of the University of Cape Town (UCT) investigated the feasibility of implementing waterless urinals on UCT’s upper campus, and his project revealed that tons of fertiliser could be made from urine collected on campus. Chipako just won the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) National Investigative Project (IP) Showdown for South African Universities.

His project investigated the “feasibility of implementing waterless urinals on UCT’s upper campus”.

The competition brings together the country’s top civil engineering students to present their various projects before an audience and panel of judges.

According to a press release by UCT, “The students’ assignments demonstrated the benefits of introducing waterless urinals that not only save vast quantities of water, but recover valuable, sustainable resources.” Part of these resources includes phosphorus, which is becoming scarce.

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Chipako’s research found that:

– UCT uses enough water to fill about eight Olympic-size swimming pools to flush urinals each year and purchases four tons of fertiliser each year but seven tons of fertiliser could be made from urine collected on campus.

– 79% of the 500 survey respondents said they would support food grown using urine-derived fertiliser,

–  96% of the respondents said they would support waterless urinals because they conserve water.

– Lastly, that the cheapest option for saving water in urinals would be to simply reduce the number of flushes.

“Unsurprisingly, it was quite surreal to have conversations with highly regarded personalities in the South African civil engineering community, and I’m truly grateful to have been awarded the opportunity. I’d like to thank the entire Department of Civil Engineering at UCT for the unparalleled support I’ve been given throughout my studies,” said Chipako.

“Being exposed to events such as the SAICE National IP Showdown, and further having the honour to represent UCT, was an amazing experience. Having the community take interest in your research is always a plus as well!,” added Chipako.

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Chipako graduated cum laude and was part of the newly established urine research field in the Department of Civil Engineering. His research work got the highest score. With the situation of lack of water in Cape Town, there could be a solution to water conservation.