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Peecycling ProcessThe war in Ukraine has steeply increased the price of natural gas, a major component of fertilizers and also a primary source of energy. This, combined with the sanctions imposed on Russia, one of the world’s top exporters of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus fertilizers (contributing about 15%, 19% and 14% of the global supply respectively), is causing a severe fertilizer shortage. Amid this food catastrophe, a branch of sustainable food developers, going by the name “peecyclers,” have found a promising solution: using human urine as a suitable alternative to fertilizers by implementing the peecycling process.

Prices of fertilizers are skyrocketing worldwide, forcing farmers to produce less, and thus, unintentionally harming their livelihoods. This ripple is also extending into the food market, with the FAO Food Price Index reaching an all-time high of 159.7 points in March 2022.

Benefits of Using Human Urine as Fertilizer

  • Urine is rich in nutrients. About 80% of the nitrogen and 66% of the phosphorus that human beings release as waste comes in the form of urine. Both these elements are vital in the making of fertilizers.
  • In research conducted as early as 2010 in Finland, researchers planted four plots of beets and treated them with different fertilizers. Researchers fertilized one of the plots solely with urine and fertilized another with urine and wood ash. After 84 days, the researchers harvested 280 beets. The research concluded that the two samples  fertilized with urine and a combination of urine/ash were “10% and 27% larger by mass, respectively, than those grown in mineral fertilizer.” Moreover, researchers noted no reduction in the number of nutrients contained in all samples, proving that urine is not a lesser substitute and can stand as an effective fertilizer.
  • About 125 gallons of urine can help produce 320 pounds of wheat as urine is both organic and rich in nutrients. Using urine could reduce the pollution that arises from using nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers.
  • Urine diversion is the process of collecting urine separately and using it for productive purposes. It also helps conserve freshwater and reduces the number of water bodies polluted by sewage waste.
  • Urine is readily available, and hence, is much cheaper than synthetic fertilizers. Although the initial infrastructural costs of peecyling may be expensive, the cost of production for farmers could come to be much less in the future, spurring profits.
  • Flushed urine has nutrients that are difficult to remove. By diverting urine for other purposes, wastewater treatment becomes much less costly as nitrogen and phosphorus are easy to remove.

How the Peecycling Process Works

A variety of systems, including cups, jugs and special toilets with attached plumbed tanks, were designed to aid the process of urine diversion. These instruments are easy to use and once the urine is collected, it is transported to the site of treatment.

The process of sterilizing urine is simpler than doing the same for feces. All one has to do to destroy the remaining pathogens is keep the collected urine between temperatures of 71-75 degrees Fahrenheit for about three months.

Urine is 95% water, and therefore, requires significant storage capacity. This is expensive, but there are ways to concentrate urine through various processes such as evaporation, distillation and reverse osmosis. One particularly effective process is “alkaline urine dehydration.” This involves raising the pH value of urine to reduce its volume and convert it into fertilizer.

Peecycling Projects Underway

  1. The NGO Rich Earth Institute implemented the Urine Nutrient Reclamation Program. It is a urine donation program in Vermont that is educating people on the benefits of using urine as a fertilizer and mobilizing them to donate the “liquid gold.” In 2021, the organization collected more than 12,000 gallons of urine and had “four farm partners who [applied] the urine to their hay fields.” One of them, Noah Hoskins, commented that he saw “very strong results from the urine” after applying it at the Bunker Farm in Dummerston.
  2. In Niger, female farmers have implemented the usage of sanitized urine (referred to as “Oga” by the natives) to fertilize crops in areas where the soil is infertile. The peecycling process for them has proven to produce a higher yield of pearl millet, their staple crop, by about 30%. This means more profit for the farmers because urine is a low-cost, risk-free input.
  3. A team of researchers associated with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala, Sweden, is trying to expand the peecycling process into a large-scale process that every region in the world can emulate. The Gotland project started in 2021 and is carrying out its experiments with urine on barley fields. The researchers developed a process that converts urine into a powder, which is then easily compressed into fertilizer pellets. Such equipment is easy for farmers to use on a daily basis.
  4. Certain regions in Uganda, where there are limited “soil nutrient management” options, use urine to increase crop production. The research began on a small scale in 2014. Published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, the experiment concluded that human urine is indeed advantageous for smallholder farmers as it increased their food security and income.

A lot of potential is yet to be unpacked from human urine and scientists are on top of it. Nevertheless, one thing is certain: the peecycling process provides a feasible solution to global fertilizer shortages, ensuring food security worldwide.

– Anushka Raychaudhuri
Photo: Flickr

War in Ukraine
As the war in Ukraine continues, many begin to think about the consequences that are going to result from it. One can already see some of the consequences of the damage done in Ukraine. From a humanitarian perspective, this war will have severe consequences on poverty around the world. The impact war has on poverty does not always get the most attention. However, it is just as important as the other consequences that come from war.

War and Poverty

People often overlook those living in poverty during war as well as how greatly it affects the demographic. For example, damage to infrastructure and the economy can set a country back in the progress previously made in minimizing poverty. It also makes the living conditions of those living in poverty worse. War affects poverty and poverty has impacts on war as well. Countries with lower GDPs have a higher possibility of conflict. Poverty can reduce a government’s ability to prevent conflict as well.

Poverty in Ukraine Before the War

Poverty in Ukraine has always fluctuated. According to a UNICEF article, absolute poverty reached peak values in 2001 and 2015 in Ukraine. Poverty in Ukraine was declining from 2015 to 2019. In 2020, poverty began to rise again in part due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Impacts on Poverty from the War in Ukraine

The war in Ukraine has already caused damage to infrastructure, economy, unemployment and inflation. According to the New York Times, the damage Russia has caused to Ukraine’s infrastructure is more than $119 billion as of March 14, 2022. The damage caused is detrimental to Ukraine’s infrastructure and poverty rate. The loss of life and displacement of Ukrainian people will cause a rise in poverty. UNDP tweeted that “According to our early projections, almost one-third of Ukrainians could fall into poverty within a year and an additional 62% are at risk of falling into poverty.” Ukraine is not the only country that is going to feel the impacts of this war. Countries all over the world are facing an increase in prices of products and goods such as gas and food. The Center for Global Development stated, “Our analysis suggests the scale of the price spike will push over 40 million into extreme poverty.” The entire world is going to feel the impact of the war in Ukraine.

Solutions

In an effort to help those in Ukraine, the United Nations Foundation has created a link on its webpage so anyone can donate. The U.N. is providing humanitarian assistance by using money from the Central Emergency Response Fund as well as providing assistance on the ground. According to the United Nations Foundation, “The UN is on the ground delivering life-saving humanitarian assistance and support to the people of Ukraine.” Local governments are also creating programs to provide aid. In Northern Virginia, the collection of necessities such as blankets and coats for Ukrainian refugees began on March 23, 2022. The World Food Programme (WFP) has also been providing food assistance. An article from WFP stated that its operation will be working towards providing assistance to people inside of Ukraine and neighboring countries. 

A Look Ahead

The effects of poverty will be more detrimental the longer the war in Ukraine continues. Ukraine was making progress in eliminating poverty before COVID-19 and is now going to see a significant increase in the number of people facing economic hardships. The entire world will be affected by this increase as well.

Anna Deutsch
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents UkraineOften, the media misrepresents Ukraine in the news by focusing on the ongoing war in the country. This has been the case ever since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 that produced the conflict. Over the years, coverage of the war between the Ukrainian government and Russian separatists has dwindled but remains the focus whenever a story appears, either that or the dire situations and struggles the war has caused. While covering the war and its causes does a great job of highlighting the humanitarian crisis it has created by displacing thousands of Ukrainians who continue to struggle, it does little to portray their beautiful culture and country.

Whenever the media misrepresents Ukraine, due to its proximity to Russia and perhaps the association between the two countries, it is often thought that the two countries share very similar cultures and landscapes. Beyond this, media portrayal makes the country seem as though it is always in conflict and struggle. Neither of these assumptions is the case. Ukraine is a unique Slavic country, with its own language, customs, and a rich cultural history.

Ukraine’s Geography and Climate

Physically, Ukraine is unique in that it has a wider, warmer range of climates than most would assume. Spanning from the north where it borders Poland, Belarus and Russia, the climate is temperate, down to the Black Sea, where the climate is warm enough to be considered Mediterranean and winters can be quite mild. This means the country also holds a variety of stunning landscapes from the Carpathian mountains to beaches found in the city of Odessa.

Cultural History of Ukraine

Among these serene landscapes sit a variety of cities such as the capital of Kiev. With most cities and even towns in Ukraine, cultural history is honored by many historical buildings with stunning architecture that stand among the modern ones. While Ukrainians honor their past through these buildings, museums and classical art galleries, they don’t hesitate from making this legacy endure through experimental forms of cultural expression as well as by continuing with the classics. In the urban hubs of Ukraine’s larger cities, a variety of artistic expression can be found in performance art, literature, modern galleries, and through the long-standing tradition of Ukrainian folk art.

Ukrainian Hospitality

When focusing on the upheaval and chaos caused by the ongoing conflicts, the media misrepresents Ukraine by neglecting to display the generosity and friendliness of the country’s people even as they face these struggles. It is a part of the Ukrainian culture to be as generous and hospitable as possible to others. While Ukrainians are warm and care for their friends and family, they also treat their guests with equal care so much so that not offering food and drinks to a guest, especially while having some for yourself, is considered rather rude. No matter the occasion, Ukrainians always make sure their guests feel comfortable and at home by providing them with food, beverages and kindness even if they have little to offer.

Conclusion

In stark contrast with the media portrayal of Ukraine, the country and its people are unique in every way. The Ukrainians, their traditions and culture have to be contrasted with the humanitarian crisis caused by the ongoing war, rather than focusing solely on the war. The media has to show just how much Ukraine has been affected and how dire the situation is for those caught in the war zone. Ukraine is not just a country in constant conflict but one with a rich culture and history which will survive this conflict or any others it may face.

– Keegan Struble

Photo: Flickr