Kedar Kulkarni, a 27-year-old from Pune is transforming public urinals into odourless and hygienic urinals, using the waterless technology he innovated.
Ever been struck by the sickening stench when you pass a public washroom? Well, that is because of the uric salt present in human urine. When it comes in contact with water, it reacts and leads to the formation of ammonia, which causes a stench.
As a possible solution, biotechnology graduate Kedar Kulkarni (27) from Pune has developed a technology that not only reduces the odour but also saves water. He co-founded Rutu Biosystems — a startup that provides odour control, sanitation and water conservation.
“The way the urinals are built in itself is a problem. The uric salt in urine gets deposited in the drain line, which then comes in contact with water. It reacts and releases ammonia gas. This can be treated using our products that not only cancel out odour but also conserve water,” Kedar Kulkarni tells The Better India.
According to an IIT Delhi research, on average four litres of water is used to flush urinals and the figure might go up to 10 litres depending on the toilet. If an average person urinates 4–5 times a day, total water consumption can go up to 20-40 litres of water a day.
Since urine is already in liquid form, it does not actually require water to flow down the drainage lines.
“Water mostly just adds to the odour problem,” explains Kedar. “Water moves the waste away from one point to another, and because of the oxidation reaction, odour-forming gases are released.”
Odourless and waterless urinals
What started as a company to cater to odour control and waste management has led to the development of a technology that has saved millions of gallons of water.
When Kedar’s father Mohan Kulkarni started Rutu Biosystems in 2007, their aim was simple — to focus on odour management and sanitation. This area of biotechnology intrigued his father so much that he left his electrical engineering career to explore the world of biotechnology.
Watching his father work relentlessly, Kedar knew from a very early age that he wanted to be in the same field. Soon after graduating, he joined his family business to take it further.
Rutu Biosystem now has a range of products, and it runs programmes focused on achieving odourless and waterless urinals.
“Our technology consists of three solutions that work together — a washroom cleaner, a urinal screen and bio block, and an odour controller. The basic components of these products are bacteria and enzymes. These bacteria typically belonging to the bacillus family are found everywhere in nature. We extract and use them in our products,” says Kedar.
The bacteria and active enzymes present in the bio block and cleaner react with the uric salts and produce nitrogen instead of ammonia, which causes no stench in the urinals. This not only helps to maintain cleanliness and sanitation but also saves water.
Kedar adds, “What makes our technology different is its ease of installation. Once the products are installed in a public place, we provide training to janitors to familiarise them with the technology. Apart from that, there is no need for extra assistance. The bio blocks are simply placed on the urinals. We transform the existing urinals into eco-friendly ones, just by replacing their products with our patented products. So, our customers don’t spend much to make this change.”
Why waterless urinals?
- They do not require any plumbing accessories, hence optimising the cost of operating them.
- Up to 20 litres of water per person can be saved by using waterless urinals.
- There is no need to touch the flush mechanism after installing bio blocks in urinals, hence minimising the spread of bacteria and diseases.
- The enzymes and bacteria in the bio block remove the odour issue at the source itself.
- The bio block for waterless urinals also solves the problem of drain and pipe blockages by breaking down uric salts at the source.
An environmentally responsible business
Kedar says that the hygiene industry in the country is very fragmented and that there is a lack of awareness.
“Hygiene and sanitation come with their own set of problems due to lack of awareness among the consumers. Many don’t know that there are foolproof environment-friendly solutions available in the market for odour management,” he says.
Kedar shares that the conventional products we use today are superficial, and they only tackle the problem on the surface.
“We did many awareness campaigns to tell the consumers that there are better and greener solutions,” he says. “Fortunately, people are now more aware of the environmental changes and the water decline in the world and are looking out for sustainable solutions.”
He adds, “All our products are biodegradable and eco-friendly. They are completely non-toxic and harmless to the environment. By removing water from the whole equation and using bacteria gives a green spin to our products.”
Kedar shares that Rutu Biosystems has saved 700 metric tons of carbon emission, which is equivalent to planting 30,000 trees. They aim to build more sustainable and eco-friendly products in the future.
“We have saved more than 55 crore litres of water by installing bio blocks and other products in more than 15,000 public washrooms in the country. The components used in the bio block are all plant-based materials, and a block can last for up to 3,000 uses,” he says.
Kedar shares that their target is to convert 50,000 more urinals to waterless urinals by the end of 2023. “We always aim to dig deeper into the problem and provide a solution instead of just masking it.”
“Unfortunately households do not have urinals and so our products can’t be used at homes yet,” he says, adding that they hope to find a solution using their water-saving technology soon.
Edited by Pranita Bhat