South African City Wants to Pay Folks to Pee

Photo: Mahalie / CC

One bodily function may soon bring a windfall for residents of Durban, South Africa as their city council mulls over a plan to encourage waterless waste management -- by paying folks for their pee. After the city installed some 90,000 dry toilets in an effort to cut back on water usage, it's been an uphill battle getting people to embrace them -- something about discarding one's own sewage apparently rubs many residents the wrong way. But by paying for the waste, which can then be used for fertilizer, Durban officials hope more people will start peeing for a profit.Realizing that water was too valuable a resource to be flushed down the drain, officials from the South African city installed thousands of dry toilets in the drought-prone region. Unfortunately, the water-free facilities haven't been terribly popular, as residents have taken to converting the structures into almost anything other than a bathroom. The toilets require residents to empty them, and that's something too many folks just aren't willing to do despite the environmental benefits.

Lucky Sibiya, who works for the water department explains the problem in a report from PhysOrg:

When the (city) council brings the toilets to them, they look at it as an inferior system. People don't understand how important it is. There is a belief saying that touching feces brings misfortune.

A reservation most people can relate to.

But now, in a move that is sure to make folks in Durban change the way they think about their waste, city officials want to start paying for the stuff. "If we can turn the toilets into a source of revenues, then they will want to use the toilets," says the city's head of water and sanitation, Neil Macleod.

According to the proposal, 500 dry toilets will be fitted with a container to capture up to 20 liters of sewage which will then be collected by city workers. Residents who, let's say, 'contribute' the waste will then be compensated around $4 -- which is twice the daily wage for many folks living in the region. The collected waste would then go on to be used to produce fertilizers.

Perhaps as the world nudges towards more eco-friendly, resource conscious lifestyles, it is only fitting that we re-think the potential of our basic bodily functions -- and who knows, maybe make a little money on the side.

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