Scientists want to use your pee to save the environment

It’s likely that most of the food you’ll eat today was not farmed sustainably.

The global system of food production is the largest human influence on the planet’s of nitrogen and phosphorus. How much crops can grow is limited by the amount of these two elements in the soil, so they’re applied as fertilizers.

But the majority of fertilizers are either made by converting nitrogen in the air to ammonia, which alone consumes and relies heavily on fossil fuels, or by mining finite resources, like .

to this problem could be much closer than people realize. Most of the nutrients we consume in food are passed in our urine because our bodies already have enough. But instead of being recaptured, these nutrients are flushed, diluted, and sent to wastewater treatment plants where they’re scrubbed out, leaving effluents that can be safely released into the environment.

The most nutrient-rich part of wastewater is , which makes up less than 1% of the total volume but contains 80% of the nitrogen and 50% of the phosphorus. We discovered how to recycle this urine into valuable – and sustainable – farmland fertilizer.

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