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Gates funds urine project in South Africa

A Swiss-backed project to improve sanitation in South Africa by separating and collecting urine from toilets has received a financial boost from the United States.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has granted $3 million (SFr 2.85 million) to support a joint project by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) and the eThekwini Water and Sanitation utility (EWS) in South Africa to continue developing practical, community-scale nutrient recovery systems.

In a statement on Thursday, Eawag explained how the separate collection of urine provided innovative opportunities for the improvement of sanitation and the recycling of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

The four-year project focuses on the further development of technical solutions for urine processing for nutrient recovery. According to Eawag, urine separation is an excellent sanitation solution, particularly in places where classic sewer-based sanitation is not sustainable.

In addition, project participants, together with experts from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, will study the logistics of collection and transport of urine from toilets to processing facilities.

The Swiss aquatic research scientists and their partners in South Africa will also examine ways in which sanitation can be paid for by the production and sale of urine-based fertiliser, thus enabling a cheap, efficient and widely accepted sanitation system to be set up.

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