drinkpeedrinkpeedrinkpee is a project about the role our bodies play in larger ecosystems.
The installation were on view and the DIY kits will be available at the exhibition:
FEEDBACK at Eyebeam
The project was created by Britta Riley and Rebecca Bray, artists and collaborators who also own a company called submersible design.
What happens when we think of our bodies as their own ecosystems? Are they open or closed ecosystems? Where do we draw the boundaries? Before we take medication, do we ask ourselves how it will affect our internal organs, our friendly bacteria? What is our medication’s future, beyond our bodies, in the sewage system and out in the waterways we swim in and eventually drink? What are the possible futures of our personal waste? What do sentient ecosystems eat and drink?
In this work we can see our urine become a source of overfeeding, mutation, and disease or a fertilizer in a new lifecycle economy. Waste can spur death or growth.
For more information, email: info [at] submersibledesign [dot] com.
From the scientists at EAWAG Aquatic Research:
Although urine makes up only 1% of the total volume of wastewater, it accounts for 50–80% of the nutrient content. Nutrients have to be removed by resource-intensive processes at wastewater treatment plants. In the absence of these processes, nutrient discharges pose a risk of eutrophication – threatening in particular coastal waters and fish stocks. Many problematic substances, such as residues of medicines or endocrine disrupters, also enter wastewater via urine and may subsequently be released into the environment. The Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) has now shown that separate collection and treatment of urine could make significant contributions to water pollution control and nutrient recycling worldwide . . .
Novaquatis tested various methods of processing urine. Ideally, treatment should permit recycling of nutrients as fertilizers and, at the same time, removal of problematic micropollutants. For example, 98% of the phosphorus in urine can be recovered by precipitation with magnesium. The product – struvite – is an attractive fertilizer, free of pharmaceuticals and hormones. In Switzerland, nutrients from human urine could serve as substitutes for at least 37% of the nitrogen and 20% of the phosphorus demand that is currently met by imported artificial fertilizers.
What's the problem with urine in wastewater?
While urine accounts for less than 1% of total wastewater volume, it contains 50–80% of all the nutrients in wastewater. Many micropollutants, i.e. residues of pharmaceuticals and hormones from human metabolism, also enter wastewater via urine. On average, for all medicines and hormones ingested, 60–70% of the active ingredient is excreted in the urine.
85-90% of the nitrogen and 50-80% of the phosphorus are concentrated in the urine. These nutrients are desirable in agriculture, but not in waterbodies. It may therefore make sense to separate urine from wastewater and use it for fertilizer production.
For more information on this research, see the EAWAG press release.
We would like to thank the following generous and amazing people for helping us make this project possible:
Maria Jarkowiec- Maria is a brilliant med student and former chef who was the perfect person to help us translate laboratory procedures loosely described in dense scientific papers into a clear, precise lab manua for a home DIY kit.
Christopher Kucinski- Chris consulted with us on the design, did a lot of the finer installation work at Eyebeam, helped us refine the reactions and peed into a cup for us a lot.
Maria Kucinski- Maria is our intrepid assistant. Thanks to her undying foresight we are much more organized than we had ever know ourselves to be.
The guys at New World Aquarium who have laughed at us and helped us along all the way through our crash course in salt water aquarium keeping.
Jaime, Jason, Paul, Joanna and all the amazing folks at Eyebeam put up with our request to basically hang out at Eyebeam all the time so we could properly attend to our little fishies.
James Bigbee Garver for sound and installation assistance.