Researchers Made A Sustainable Brick Out Of Human Urine & I Don't Know What To Think

The world's first brick created from human urine was unveiled this week by University of of Cape Town (UCT) students in an innovative and sustainable take on waste recovery.

When producing normal bricks, high-temperature kilns are needed to bake the bricks, which releases a large amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. To make these environmentally-friendly bricks, the UCT students combined the urine with sand and bacteria using a process that allowed the bricks to solidify at room temperature. 

"It's essentially the same way that coral is made in the ocean," Dyllon Randall, their supervisor at UCT, told the BBC.

In addition to cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions, the brick is also zero-waste. The brick produces nitrogen and potassium as by-products, which are both important components of commercial fertilizers, making the brick multi-purpose and therefore zero-waste.

To get the necessary urine, the students have been harvesting from male urinals. According to the BBC, it takes around 100 bathroom trips to get enough urine for one brick. During the brick-making process, ammonia is released, creating a strong smell. Fortunately, after about 48 hours, the bricks completely lose the ammonia smell. The bricks also do not have any health risks.

"The process we use in stage one kills all harmful pathogens and bacteria because we operate at an extremely high pH that has been shown to kill pretty much everything," Randall told the BBC.

The UCT team is looking forward to see how their creation can be applied in the real-world and how it might influence the way society views waste.

“In this example you take something that is considered a waste and make multiple products from it. You can use the same process for any waste stream. It’s about rethinking things,” Randall said in a press release.

Every little step to help protect the earth from harmful human activity is a step towards a healthier environment. This brick is sure to make a difference in the sustainability of building materials and fertilizers.