Paris Now Has Public ‘Open-Air’ Urinals, and Many Locals Aren’t Happy

Aug 14, 2018

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On your next trip to Paris, in addition to seeing familiar sites like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, you might see a few giant, red flower pots being used as urinals.

If you’re grossed out by that, you’re not alone. Parisians are questioning city officials’ attempts to combat public urination with the installation of “open-air” urinals or “uritrottoirs” in and around the city’s historic neighborhoods. 

In Paris officials’ latest efforts to alleviate the smells, damage, and public indecency that come along with public urination, the uritrottoirs are anything but subtle.

One uritrottoir that overlooks the Seine River near the Notre Dame Cathedral is causing the most controversy among residents, and they are planning a petition to have it removed.

“I think installing a urinal in the streets of Paris for those who don’t respect their surroundings is a good idea, but in my opinion, this model is not attractive at all, and where it’s been set up is not appropriate at all,” one resident told CNN.

Another Paris resident who owns an art gallery nearby one of the stations expressed his distaste to Reuters.

“We’re told we have to accept this, but this is absolutely unacceptable. It’s destroying the legacy of the island. Can’t people behave?” the man said.

On the other hand, city officials claim these eco-friendly toilets are for the better good of the city, especially in areas where public urination is a major issue. There are four currently in place, and a fifth one is in the works.

“The uritrottoir, an intelligent pissotiere, makes it possible to compost and grow flowers,” officials said in a statement, adding that a filtration system using straw will help limit unpleasant odors. “Straw and urine are then collected and composted, allowing the recovery of naturally occurring nitrogen and phosphate in large amounts in the urine. Ultimately, this device allows the urine to return to fertilize the plants.”

Despite the backlash from residents, public urination stations are nothing new and are quite common in several European cities. Pissoirs, or public urinals, in Paris have been around since the 1800s and only began to phase out around the 1960s. Amsterdam and Brussels have also had public urinals for years and have faced similar concerns from residents when the stations are located near historic sights, like the St. Catherine Church in Belgium.

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