MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — An assistant professor at West Virginia University is working to develop technology that would make urine recycling more accessible.

According to WVU Today, Kevin Orner is developing a technology that can treat urine on-site, rather than it having to be transported to a remote, centralized wastewater treatment facility.

The goal would be to transform waste collection and treatment into an environmentally beneficial service that makes money by allowing urine treatment to happen quickly by quickly recovering nitrogen from the urine through a device under the toilet.

Nitrogen is a nutrient that can be sold as fertilizer, but that can also promote the growth of potentially dangerous algae in waterways in large amounts.

“You have a toilet in your house and a sewer that brings the waste to a treatment plant that might be miles away,” Orner explained. “There are greenhouse gas emissions involved with constructing the sewer that’s connected to your house and for treating the waste at the plant. To prevent the nutrients from being discharged to your local river, the wastewater treatment plant typically uses energy-intensive electric blowers to convert the ammonium in wastewater to nitrate and to convert that nitrate into nitrogen gas.”

Orner envisions toilets that separate urine and feces, allowing each of those waste products to be collected, treated and converted into, most commonly, fertilizer.

A urine diverting dry toilet. Photo provided by Dan Lapid, taken in 2007 (Centre for Advanced Philippine Studies, CAPS) Found through WikiMedia Commons and used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

In one phase of the study, Orner’s team was able to speed up a waste treatment process that could take weeks down to one day by priming the collection and treatment reservoir with an inoculation of soil containing helpful microorganisms and carbon pellets, among other methods.