The environmental conservation movement has prompted the invention of new products and the modification of other everyday items, such as low-flow toilets and one of the newer fixtures for public restrooms, waterless urinals. The integration of the waterless urinal into public restrooms is applauded by some while being booed by others as civic governments and facility owners debate their pros and cons.
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Environmentally-friendly The main argument in favor of the waterless urinal is their water-saving design, making them easier on the environment and a popular purchase for governments and buildings wanting to make a positive environmental impact. Urinals made before 1993 used about 3 gallons of water with each flush. Standard water-flushing urinals made since that date use only about 1cgallon per flush. Waterless urinals, of course, use no water, making them more environmentally friendly.
Money-saving Going hand in hand with being easy on the environment, waterless urinals have also proven themselves to be more cost-effective to use than their flushing counterparts. The initial money saving comes, obviously, from having no water usage. The urine traps built into the waterless urinals only need to be changed a handful of times per year. The refills, less than $10 each, cost far less in a year than the thousands of gallons of water used each year to operate flushable units.
More or less maintenance? Waterless urinals require considerably less maintenance than the flushable styles. Aside from the time needed to change out the urine traps, facilities using waterless urinals tend to need fewer maintenance calls because there are no water pipes for a plumber to maintain, repair or unclog. Flushable urinals, even the low-flow variety, often encounter limestone buildup in the pipes that needs to be cleaned out.
Splash-back Some users of waterless urinals have reported splash-back onto their clothing and exposed skin due to the lack of moisture in the urinal and the design of the urinal drain.
Non-hygienic With no water to wash down the urine, some who are against the use of waterless urinals feel that waterless urinals cause hygiene issues. Bacteria can remain in the unit and emit fumes that carry airborne, infectious diseases that are spread as users of the urinals breathe in the fumes.
A Matter of Opinion
Odor or odorless? The most widely voiced drawback to waterless urinals is the odor they tend to emit. Some manufacturers claim that their units actually cause less odor than regular urinals because of the special odor-eating drain filters they use. However, other makes and models of waterless urinals do not have such filters, or the units that do have the filters are not always maintained properly. With no water to wash the urine down the pipes, the urine remaining in the pipes and on the surface of the unit can cause a quite odoriferous situation in restrooms, a smell that can sometimes be so strong, it is evident from the minute someone walks into the building.