Imagine an ordinary plastic recycling bin with a hinged lid and wheels of the type seen curbside and on sidewalks throughout the US. Fit into the side is a wide mouth funnel which functions as urinal. A tube extends to a compartment underneath the usual bin which converts the urine into high quality natural fertilizer.
Swiss designer Stephen Bischof has field tested his innovative prototype on the busy streets of South London, where video monitoring confirmed its acceptance by users. The press, the design community, and experts in ecological sanitation have all taken note.
Considering the challenge of dealing with public urination in US cities, the Recycling Bin Urinal merits serious consideration. First, it presents an opportunity to decriminalize public urination when people simply cannot find an available toilet. Granted, a recycling bin meets neither the standards of dignity nor the privacy criteria expected of a public toilet. But in areas of cities where homeless people gather at night for their safety, these emergency urinals are likely to be welcomed.
Even when public toilets are available within a reasonable distance, homeless men and women are understandably reluctant to go to them if it means packing up their belongings and or leaving them behind. The bins can be discretely rolled to a nearby alcove at night. Women can use the facility to dump urine collected in a drugstore urinal or directly with the assistance of any of a number of inexpensive cardboard or plastic funnels available on the market.
Environment activists and advocates for the rights of homeless people might do well to think out of the box and embrace this idea. Decriminalize urination, collect trash and recycle urine using the same small footprint receptacle? Maybe this is a place to start.