Public toilets are missing in most countries – even in 2009 we still lack decent, clean & affordable public toilets in most places and it’s still only a few companies that are active in this sector.

One reason for coming up with this blog certainly was the lack of such public facilities, and it is projects like the Kenyan Ikotoilet that my main interest is focussed on (~ seeing “sanitation as a business”, not only as an unpaid for, unappreciated public service). While we will blog about Ikotoilets in the coming days (will be published on AfriGadget.com first), let me introduce you to a Dutch company called Urilift that produces so-called “pop-up urinals”:

urilift-4bdefurilift-1bdefUrilift: “The Urilift is placed where it is needed: at hot spots in entertainment districts, for instance. Three people can use the urinals in the attractively styled stainless steel cylinder at the same time without seeing or being bothered by each other. The Urilift is only above ground when it is needed. For the rest of the time, it is completely hidden underground.” And there’s one interesting detail: “The Urilift is connected to the water mains but can also be supplied with a water tank, or without water. The water tank operates on an ecosystem that is filled automatically with rainwater.”

stap4UriGienic… is similar to the Urilift, but with a toilet seat: “The unique UriGenic toilet pan, a ‘wok’ with a suspended toilet seat, is the perfect solution for men and women. Since the toilet seat returns automatically to a vertical position after use, the unit can also be used by men as a urinal. Splashes on the seat are therefore a thing of the past. Naturally the unit is completely lockable so that the user can enjoy total privacy. It is also practical to use and exceptionally hygienic.”

nachtUriVisable “…can not be hidden below ground level. For this reason the UriVisable is extremely suitable for locations where permanent placement does not cause any objections and where, taking into account the pattern needed, a urinal is required 24 hours a day.”

There are also videos available online on the website of Urilift as well as on YouTube which demonstrate how such a public toilet pops up on the street and how they submerge e.g. during daytime.

Now, being connected to the mains sewer means that these toilet system will probably only work in cities where the sewage system already exists and that all valuable nutrients contained within the waste streams are actually wasted. The interesting questions are:

  • How much does such an installation cost and what kind of permits are required from the City Council?
  • Are there any subsidies from the local City Council to promote such public toilets (which, to my understanding, would have to be paid for by bar/restaurant owners)?
  • Would a waterless urinal also work in such an environment?
  • Would it make sense to turn a UriLift urinal into a waterless urinal in order to save on flushing water and to collect the urine for use in urban agriculture projects (e.g. allotment gardens within the city)?

UriLift sure is an interesting technology and the right step forward. I’d love to have one of those toilets right here in Frankfurt/M., btw.


Author: jke

Hi, I am an engineer who freelances in water & sanitation-related IT projects. You'll also find me on Twitter @saniblog and Instagram.

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