University of Michigan aims for safe, urine-based fertilizer

PHOTO: A midwestern farmer tills and fertilizes his land near Omaha Nebraska., Photo Date: 1988 - Photo: Scott Stewart / DoD / MGN

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Special toilets are coming to University of Michigan as part of a large project researching the conversion of human urine into fertilizer.

Officials say engineering researchers at the Ann Arbor school are leading the effort that just received a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The project is billed as the nation's largest program examining the technological requirements and social attitudes related to urine-based fertilizers.

The grant builds on work started in 2014 to remove bacteria, viruses and residual pharmaceuticals from urine to make fertilizer. Researchers say deriving fertilizer from nutrient-rich urine could save money and reduce pollution.

The university's toilets, opening this fall in the G.G. Brown building, will route urine to a tank for treatment. The resulting fertilizer will be used at Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

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