MSW Management

Number One Bricks

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You know how scientists are always making everyday items out of not so obvious used materials? Well, maybe not “always” now that I’m trying to remember some of those things. But if anyone asks you, “What’s the weirdest thing a scientist has ever made out of a not-so-obvious used material?” you can tell them this: Bricks made out of human urine.

It sounds strange and a bit disgusting probably because it is.

According to, researchers from the University of Cape Town (UTC) have come up with a way to do exactly that.

“The innovative bio-brick building material comes in various shapes and strengths meant to suit a person’s specific design needs. Created in the same way seashells are, the edgy technology employs a natural process called microbial carbonate precipitation. Urine [is collected] from specially designed fertilizer-producing male urinals and is mixed with loose sand that is colonized with bacteria, producing urease. This enzyme breaks down the urea in urine to produce calcium carbonate by way of chemical reaction, cementing the sand in its mold at room temperature. By comparison, traditional bricks are kiln-fired at around 400°C, creating carbon dioxide in the process. Even cooler is the fact that the strength, size, and shape of a bio-brick can be tailored to individual needs.”

It looks like you can handle the finished product without gloves, much like you would handle ordinary everyday bricks. I haven’t handled them myself so I can’t tell if there’s any type of odor associated with the bio-bricks.

“In short, urine is collected in special fertilizer-producing urinals that create a solid fertilizer. From there, the leftover liquid is then used to grow the bio-bricks using calcium and carbonate ions not extracted from the urinal. After the bricks are made, any excess products are made into a second fertilizer. So, our pee is made into three useful products essentially leaving zero waste behind.”

The scientific process is sound. I guess the societal ramifications would need to be considered. Harvesting the urine, collecting the urine, and transporting the urine are just a few things off the top of my head that would give me pause.

How much easier would it make doing those things if you throw on the label “sustainability”?

I’m considering it.


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