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PPlanters: A solution for public urination, in private

To use the PPlanter: Urinate into the urinal (that can be used by both men and women, with a disposable funnel) and wash your hands in the sink. Then the sink flushes the urinal and both of get pumped out to the planters and the urine and waste can actually be used as nutrients for plants and become a complete cycle. (Photo courtesy Hyphae Design Lab)

I didn’t know this, but apparently there is a tradition in San Francisco that when a man (especially) needs to relieve himself, he just uses the street. It’s sort of like Paris in that way.

But of course, that’s not exactly neighborly.

One company has come up with an imaginative solution to create on-street relief stations that don’t look like relief stations. The PPlanter actually looks more like a penalty box, with bamboo growing outside it.

It’s the brain child of the Hyphae Design Lab.

So, I asked the founder of Hyphae, Brett Bucknam, you step into this and do what?

“You slide the door closed.”

It’s a good next step.

“A big piece for us was, how do you balance public safety and privacy. Obviously this isn’t your private bathroom, but when you need to relieve yourself (it’s) a safe solution that we’ve worked through with the police department and others,” says Bucknam.

Bucknam says you just urinate into the urinal (that can be used by both men and women, with a disposable funnel) and wash your hands in the sink. Then the sink flushes the urinal and the fluid gets pumped out to the planters. The waste can actually be used as nutrients for plants. It’s a complete cycle.

“I think that’s one of the really exciting features,” says Bucknam.

The bamboo thrives, nothing goes to waste – but everyone can still see you because your head is poking out above the privacy barrier.

“You get a decent level of privacy, enough to relieve yourself, more than in between two cars, or in someone’s doorway,” says Bucknam.

There are a variety of different modules and Bucknam says the pee planters that have already been built cost anywhere between $15,000 to $20,000 each.

It’s certainly the most innovative public toilet idea I’ve seen in some time. And Hyphae Design has a map tool to make it easy to report where most people urinate in public.

In 2004, Seattle installed public toilets in different parts of the city. They were removed by 2008, and largely dubbed a failure after users left so much trash behind that its automated floor scrubbers had to be disabled, and prostitutes and drug users found privacy in the bathroom’s locked doors.

So far, we haven’t heard of any plans for PPlanters in Seattle.’s Alyssa Kleven contributed to this report.

Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

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About the Author

Dave Ross

Dave Ross hosts the Morning News on KIRO Radio weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Dave has won the national Edward R. Murrow Award for writing five times since he started at KIRO Radio in 1978.


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