2023 Green Pee Pot

2023 Green Pee pot public experiments, Johannesburg

In partnership with Divercity urban property fund, University of Witwatersrand, Animal Plant and Environmental Science School, and University of Johannesburg Process, Engineering, Environmental and Technology Station.

As much as it irritates us when we are watching a movie, driving a long a deserted dirt road, or in the middle of creating a masterpiece, we all must pee. Some of us more than others, depending on the size of your bladder. Not pointing any fingers here.

Imagine the frustration if you travel far for work everyday, you are a taxi driver, or a delivery scooter, and there are no loo’s in the inner city, either because they were never built, they are locked or because they are not maintained.

You will start reconsidering that morning cup of coffee, perhaps time your commute, or as a last resort relieve yourself against a wall with the most privacy you can find. Nobody wants to pee in public. Nobody wants to see people peeing in public. No building wants to have people peeing against it.

The Green Pee Pot promises to be the welcome relief to all with bladders that need to be emptied, buildings that need to be protected and passersby that dread the sight of bladders being emptied.

Divercity Urban Property Fund is a key stakeholder in the challenging process of revitalising the Inner City. To this extent the company has extensively invested into more than merely the buildings that it owns and operates but have also made sig­nificant strides to the upgrading surrounding areas.

Public urination is an ongoing unsightly and smelly urban conundrum on city walls, so much so that the urine strip fresh paint of buildings. Johannesburg’s infrastructural challenges affect this problem further because the few public ablution facilities we have are not fully functional, and not enough.

This document summarises the research and development of a nature-based solution to address this problem. We call it the Green Pee Pot, because one can urinate in a pot plant. The whole urinal sits on top of existing infrastructure, processing the urine through a phytoremediation process of plants.

The Green Pee Pot seeks to:

  • – Create a private space for public urination which is safe and clean to use
  • – Process the smell of urine with plants
  • – Link the maintenance of the urinals to CIDS and Urban rangers

Many collaborators thus far have contributed to work this intervention out.

University of Johannesburg

PEETS Engineering and Industrial design contributions

Dr Kousar Hoorsak Water and Sanitation Engineer

Olawale Kukoyi, Envirnmental Engineering specialist

Gabriel Gibbons, Technical designer


University of the Witwatersrand

Plants Phytoremediation science

Prof. Isabel Weiersbye

Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, Intrapreneur, Researcher, Practitioner

Donald Mcullum Wits Life Science Museum – Living Collections Curator

Wits Student doing the Green Pee Pot load capacity calculation: Lerato Maseko

Public Health

Prof. Nelesh Govender, Clinical Microbiology And Infectious Diseases,

Head of Centre at National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD)


Prof Mary Scholes, Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences

Refinement will improve the next urinals inner working. Various modifications can reduce cost, especially if the next phase is rolled out during the growth season. The first Green Pee Pots were built and planted in mid-winter. The plants persevered, which indicates that will improve during summer when the plants grow and absorb more urine during their growth season.

What we found very encouraging is that to date no plants have been stolen, no defecation happened! One foul vomit blocked one of the urinals, but we could plunge and treat it within a day with the biological solution.

A summary of the first 4 weeks monitoring from mid-June to mid-July  gathered good community feedback and improved the maintenance schedule, reducing it from checking twice a day to once a day. With another intensive monitoring month like this we can hone the maintenance even more.

Public Art

Ways to upscale these urinals quantities could be through branding them with mosaic artworks. Businesses have Environmental Funds which can be spent on these interventions. It is a way to add a finishing touch on these much-needed public facilities with an artwork, adding an aesthetic layer. The current plastered wall on the Green Pee Pot leaves a residue of the urine acidity on the concrete (but no smell). If the pots are built or cast, the concrete would need to have a water repellent or rather urine repellent layer to improve the maintenance. Longevity and  aesthetics or the urinals. Mosaic tiles which are glazed would be easier and neater to rinse daily in the long run. Small cut out logos can be tiled into the urinal wall as part of the artworks. My artist hat has already conceptualised this  component to  celebrate the small micro-organisms which ‘eat’ the urea, reduce smell and help the plants to process the urine.

In 2024 we will build more, monitor the urinals closely, we will improve our design and incorporate the findings from 2023 studies.

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