Recycling nutrients in urine

Collecting urine
Reusing urine

Far from being a dirty body-waste, fresh, normal urine is actually sterile and a mixture of some of the most vital and medically important substances known to man. It contains minute amounts of proteins made by the body, including medically important ones such as growth hormone and insulin. It is estimated there is a $500-million-a-year market for these kinds of urine ingredients. Whilst the idea of recycling urine is not new, it needs thousands and thousands of litres of urine to commercially produce products.

Urea, the principal organic solid in urine, is neither dangerous or poisonous, although like other substances in the body too much urea can be harmful. Not only is urea a source of nitrogen, but research has shown that urea aids in the synthesis and efficient use of protein. It has also been proven to be an extraordinary antibacterial and antiviral agent and is one of the best known natural diuretics. Urea was discovered and isolated as long ago as 1773 and is currently marketed in a variety of different drug forms, notably topical skin treatments. It also has great (almost entirely unused) potential as fertilizer.


A company in Michigan, USA has designed a special filter that collects important urine proteins. These filters have been installed in the 10,000 portable men's urinals owned by the Porta-John company, a subsidiary of Enzymes of America. The company is now marketing its first major urine product called urokinase, an enzyme that dissolves blood clots and is used to treat victims of heart attacks. The 14 million gallons flowing annually into Porta-John's privies contain about four-and-a-half pounds of urokinase alone—enough to unclog 260,000 coronary arteries. Ironically, this enterprise evolved from Porta-John's attempt to get rid of urine proteins—a major source of odour in portable toilets.

The world's largest fertility drug-producing company, the Ares-Serono Group, produces the drug Pergonal by collecting urine samples from hundreds of thousands postmenopausal women volunteers in Italy, Spain, Brazil and Argentina. From 26 collection centres, the urine is sent to Rome where technicians then isolate the ovulation-enhancing hormone. Ares-Serono earned a reported $855 million in sales in 1992, and people pay up to $1,400 per month for this urine extract. A Dutch firm reported mixes the urine of nuns with that of pregnant women to make a potion for sterile couples.

Other examples of commercial medical applications of urine and urea in use today are: Ureaphil: a diuretic made from urea; Urofollitropin: a urine-extract fertility drug; Ureacin: urea cream for skin problems; Amino-Cerv: urea cream used for cervical treatments; Premarin: a urine-extract oestrogen supplement; Panafil: urea/papain ointment for skin ulcers, burns and infected wounds. Another urine-related product ingredient is carbamide, which is the chemical name for synthesised urea. Carbamide is used in products like ear drops and skin moisturisers.


Medical researchers have proven that urea is one of the best and only medically proven, effective skin moisturisers in the world. Unlike just about all other types of oil-based moisturisers that simply sit on the top layers of the skin and do nothing to improve water retention within skin cells (which gives skin its elasticity and wrinkle-free appearance), urea increases the water-binding capacity of the skin by opening skin layers for hydrogen bonding, which then attracts moisture to dry skin cells. This is a remarkable fact considering that women spend billions of dollars a year on outrageously expensive skin moisturisers whose ingredients, even in tightly controlled double-blind comparison tests, don't even come close to hydrating dry skin as well as simple, inexpensive urea.


Facilitated by:
Using organic fertilizers
Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth