Nitrogen recovery from source-separated human urine using clinoptilolite and preliminary results of its use as fertilizer

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

The use of source separated human urine as fertilizer is one of the major suggestions of the new sanitation concept ECOSAN. Urine is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium which act as plant nutrients, however its salinity is high for agricultural and landscape purposes. Moreover, characteristics change significantly throughout storage where salinity increases to higher values as the predominant form of nitrogen shifts from urea to ammonium. Transferring nitrogen in human urine onto the natural zeolite clinoptilolite and using the subsequently recovered ammonium from the exhausted clinoptilolite for agricultural/landscape purposes is suggested as an indirect route of using urine in this work. Results reporting the outcome of the proposed process together with characterization of fresh and stored urine, and preliminary work on the application of the product on the landscape plant Ficus elastica are presented. Up to 97% of the ammonium in stored urine could be transferred onto clinoptilolite through ion exchange and about 88% could be recovered subsequently from exhausted clinoptilolite, giving an overall recovery of 86%. Another important merit of the suggested process was the successful elimination of salinity. Preliminary experiments with Ficus elastica had shown that the product, i.e. clinoptilolite exhausted with ammonium, was compatible with the synthetic fertilizer tested.

Keywords: agricultural/irrigational use, ecological sanitation (ECOSAN), fertilizer, indirect use of source separated human urine, ion exchange with clinoptilolite, nutrient recovery

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