Amsterdam has a public peeing problem. The city is surprisingly short on public restrooms, and unsuspecting tourists can be caught off guard when restaurants and cafes charge up to one euro just for a little relief. The lack of readily accessible toilets has turned the city’s canals into glorified pee troughs, and to combat the issue, the city is trying a new, environmentally friendly approach by introducing hemp-filled urinals, located at public peeing hot spots, where people can empty their bladders and do something good at the same time.
These public facilities, called GreenPee, were provided by Dutch company Urban Senses and have started cropping up around the city. The urinals are designed to look like planters with a bit of modern aesthetic flair, with metal exteriors and greenery growing on top. The planters offer a large opening on the side with a target zone for people to point their streams toward. Instead of offering a standard flushing mechanism that would send the waste spiraling through the city's plumbing system, the containers are filled with hemp that captures the urine.
According to CNN, the GreenPee planters first started popping up in the city in 2018 as part of an ongoing effort to curb the amount of public urination, or "wild peeing," as Amsterdam officials call it, that was occurring. After the pilot program proved to be a success, the city just installed eight additional planters earlier this month. Prior to their introduction, Amsterdam had tried a number of other solutions. Officials issued large fines, up to 140 euro (about $165) for people caught engaging in the act of peeing where they aren't supposed to. The city has also attempted to install outdoor urinals to direct people to at least pee in a designated area if they insist on doing it in the open air. While the effort has largely been targeted toward men, Amsterdam has also introduced retractable outdoor urinals for women to use. Since being introduced, officials claim that the GreenPee urinals have reduced the levels of wild peeing in parts of the city by up to 50 percent. They have already installed 12 of them, and are looking into expanding the effort to include female and gender-neutral options, according to The Telegraph.
Wild peeing has all sorts of negative side effects that harm the city, the environment, and even the people peeing in public. An average of 15 people per year die in Amsterdam while trying to pee into the canals. Urine also tends to have a corrosive effect that can eat away at the city's historical buildings when people decide to empty the tank in an alleyway. It can also be harmful to some ecosystems when people relieve themselves into green spaces, as the body may be expelling things that it can't otherwise digest.
Those downsides are largely negated by GreenPee, which not only gives people something to aim at when they need to go, but also turns that urine into something functional. The urinals use the pee to produce an organic fertilizer that can be extracted from the boxes and used to feed plants throughout the city. The planters also manage to attract bees and other insects that are necessary for a healthy ecosystem, and use considerably less water to process waste than a traditional toilet would. If you absolutely have to pee in public, you might as well do some good in the process. GreenPee makes that possible.