Making Public Urination Responsible

Paris is addressing its public urination epidemic by turning human waste into garden compost. Some U.S. cities are also making changes.


Don’t stop and smell the flowers in the streets of Paris, as you may be sniffing around their latest portable toilet.

After years fighting a growing epidemic of public urination, the Parisians came up with a solution to combat against “les pipis sauvages,” or “wild peeing,” while beautifying their city at the same time.

Despite a 2,000-strong "incivility brigade" of police officers dedicated to stopping offenders, 1,800 miles of sidewalk had to be cleaned each day by sanitation workers due to the high number of public urination offenders. With the epidemic damaging not only streets and walkways, but lampposts, telephone poles, cars, as well as the harm the chemicals used in cleanups wreak on the environment, city officials searched for a solution that encouraged would-be offenders to keep their waste off the street.

Public Urination Is Now a Public Resource

The ultra-modern, sleek and stylish Uritrottoir looks nothing like an American Porta-A-Potty, but is used for the same purpose, and in an eco-friendly way. The closed bin contains a bed of straw and wood chips and will later be used as compost in city parks and gardens.

The high carbon content of the straw bedding also reduces the smell normally associated with public restrooms.

We’re making compost, a fertilizer, so it’s a circular economy. We’re reusing two waste products, straw and urine, to make something that makes plants grow,” said Laurent Lebot, co-deisgner of the Uritrottoir.

The outdoor toilet is monitored by an attendant via a computer, which can detect when it needs to be emptied. The contents are taken to the outskirts of the city, and turned into compost.

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