Water Not Required To Flush Urine; IITian provides “waterless urinal” solution

No amount of water flushing will make the urinal hygienic, and the presence of water does not guarantee that a urinal is clean and odour-free, said Uttam Banerjee, the co-founder and CEO of Ekam Eco Solutions, while talking to UPDEED.

The sewage and sanitation problem is huge, which led Banerjee to think.

He found inspiration in an unlikely source – his childhood memories of a pristine river. Born in Bokaro, Jharkhand, his return after a decade revealed the shocking pollution and degradation of that once-vibrant waterway. This marked the inception of his mission to find greener solutions for sewage and sanitation problems.

With a Mechanical Engineering and Product Design background, Banerjee’s journey took him to Delhi, where he crossed the Yamuna River, only to find it polluted despite its revered name. Engaging with research scholars deepened his understanding of water quality challenges across India.

The birth of Ekam

Humans have taken this beautiful planet for granted, failing to fathom the lasting impacts of our actions. They carelessly flush waste away, considering it someone else’s problem, without even realising that it will make its way to water bodies, rivers, and ultimately oceans.

“Gazing at my child, I got struck by the realisation that the future we’re crafting for the next generation is far from ideal,” said Banerjee.

I wish to create a world where children and grandchildren inherit not just a semblance of what we enjoyed but something even greater, he added.

Realising that excessive water usage exacerbated sewage problems, Ekam pioneered waterless urinals, enzymatic cleaners, and bacterial cultures to process sewage and recover water for reuse efficiently. Banerjee’s diverse experiences, from corporate roles to product design, allowed him to approach sanitation challenges from unconventional angles.

In 2013, Uttam founded Ekam Eco Solutions, underscoring the urgency of restoring the balance and harmony we as humans have disrupted.

Unnecessary use of water in urinals

Banerjee said the prevalence of water-flushed urinals in public and private spaces has raised questions about their necessity. He decided to unravel the history and reasons behind this convention.

“Historically, flushing toilets arose to eliminate waste and curb unpleasant odours,” said Banerjee.

The reason for using water to flush solid waste is evident – the need to propel sticky and solid waste forcefully through the plumbing system; however, when it comes to urine, which is primarily liquid, this tradition of using water raises intriguing questions, he added.

Uttam delves into the chemical reactions that occur within urine.

According to him, the ammonia released when people pee and the water used to flush water, when they react, gives off a bad odour.

Flushing with water doesn’t make the urinal hygienic. Instead, this approach sacrifices a precious resource for a problem that can be resolved more sustainably.

This is where the concept of “waterless urinals” comes to rescue.

Ekam Eco Solutions’ waterless urinals tackle the odour issue without using chemicals or excessive water. Instead, they employ a mechanical system that prevents the escape of gases while allowing urine to flow freely. By acting as a one-way valve, these urinals effectively eliminate odours and maintain a hygienic environment.

Saving water, benefiting communities

The driving force behind advocating waterless urinals lies not only in improved hygiene but also in water conservation. Uttam compellingly highlights the staggering water wastage caused by flushing urinals.

A single urinal can consume approximately one lakh litres of water in a year. This startling statistic emphasises the urgency of reevaluating our water usage practices. 

According to Banerjee, shifting the trajectory from water-flushed urinals to the adoption of waterless alternatives requires a multifaceted approach, including:

  • Cultivating awareness: Acknowledging the preciousness of water and understanding that its abundance today does not justify its wastage is crucial. Campaigns must resonate on a deeper level, transcending mere financial considerations.
  • Corporate and institutional engagement: Recognising that water consumption is currently perceived as a nominal cost, Banerjee highlights the need for a collective mindset shift. Organisations must be enlightened about the ripple effect of their actions beyond their immediate financial statements.
  • Policy imperatives: Enforcing policies that regulate water consumption is a cornerstone of this endeavour. Water usage should also be subject to well-defined limits as electricity consumption is managed. Governments and organisations can foster a culture of responsible water usage by aligning policies with conservation goals.
  • Rewarding sustainability: Banerjee propounds a dual approach that discourages waste and simultaneously incentivises conservation. He advocates for policies that reward sustainable practices, fostering a sense of shared responsibility.
  • Bridging the CSR gap: While CSR efforts are commendable, they often fall short in sustained impact. Implementation may occur, but subsequent maintenance and monitoring are lacking. A shift is required from focusing solely on initiation to ensuring continuous engagement and upkeep. 

These urinals alleviate the strain on this precious resource by eliminating the need for water to flush urine. Uttam Banerjee underscores that this shift is more than a technological innovation; it’s a shift in consciousness.

Beyond reducing water wastage, waterless urinals mitigate indoor air pollution by curbing the release of toxic chemicals into the sewage system. The benefits extend further – a more effective and eco-friendly urinal cleaning solution complements this initiative.

The journey was not without hurdles

Uttam Banerjee candidly shares that their journey faced initial hurdles in conveying the value and uniqueness of their solutions to potential clients. For example, the prevalent lack of awareness surrounding waterless urinals proved to be a stumbling block.

He references a specific incident during the Commonwealth Games, where imported waterless urinals using different technology failed to meet expectations and garnered negative media attention. This setback inadvertently influenced Ekam to develop its innovative technology.

“The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a pivotal shift in how individuals and organisations view health and environment,” said Banerjee.

He added that this new consciousness has worked in Ekam Eco Solutions’ favour, aiding their efforts to promote solutions that prioritise hygiene, health, and sustainability.

As time has progressed, companies and governments alike have increasingly embraced Ekam’s solutions, recognising the long-term benefits they offer regarding health, hygiene, and environmental sustainability.

Small shifts can collectively lead to substantial change

Banerjee emphasises that fostering conscious awareness of our actions is paramount. By aligning our behaviour with a greater understanding of their consequences, we can contribute significantly to positively impacting the environment.

A key area that Banerjee focuses on is consumer behaviour.

He urges individuals to cultivate heightened awareness when making purchasing decisions. Rather than engaging in impulsive buying, he suggests considering each purchase’s necessity and environmental implications.

By evaluating product ingredients, materials, and production methods, individuals can make more informed choices that align with sustainability goals. Although altering behavioural patterns may seem challenging, even small shifts can collectively lead to substantial change.

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