A wry view of life for the world-weary

Innovation Of The Week


The obscurer parts of the media that I trawl in search of unusual stories have been somewhat preoccupied with urine this week.

Our natural waste products are an inevitable feature of our daily existence and you would think some use would be put to the estimated 6.4 trillion litres of urine produced by Homo sapiens world-wide a year. Well, it seems as though the good work of scientists led by Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos may have a solution – a urinal which produces electricity. The system converts a portion of the biochemical energy in the waste product used for microbial growth into electricity. The first urinal, sited by the student bar (natch) of the West of England University campus in Bristol has just been opened. I will follow it with interest.

It may be what the denizens of the Hamburg district of St Pauli are looking for. Fed up with the perennial problem of revellers in the Rieperbahn having a pee wherever they want – the German term is wildpinkler – they have taken matters, so to speak, into their own hands by painting the buildings with hydrophobic paint. The result is that anyone taking a pee al fresco will end up with wet shoes and trousers.

And, perhaps, one or both solutions will provide relief to a growing problem on the slopes of Mount Everest. According to the chief of Nepal’s mountaineering association this week, the amount of human waste left by climbers on the mountain has become such a problem that it is causing pollution and threatening to spread disease. Climbers have to leave a deposit – monetary to the value of $4,000 – before they start their climb which they lose if they fail to comply with regulations which includes bringing down their rubbish.But, it seems, a very real hazard that the intrepid climbers face is the risk of treading in human faeces. A sad reflection on man’s indifference to nature.

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