Renewable Matter # 12 / September-October

What Can't Be Cured Must Be Endured

by Federico Pedrocchi

In a previous article I pointed out that a way to spread the underlying message of the circular economy is also by using tricks, for example using certain widespread inefficiencies on which cleverly to intervene and hit the target.

For example: the toilet situation in railway stations. In my first article, I already touched upon the theme of “the use of urine.” I would like to go back to it by answering a question. In Italy’s large railway stations – by the way they have been heavily renovated over the last few years – there is only one location devoted to lavatories. We are talking about structures – stations – frequented daily by up to a couple of hundred thousand people. Not only that: many of them wait for their connections for up to two hours. So what? Well, architects decided that it is possible to use toilets only by reaching, with all one’s luggage, lavatories that may be (in the case of Rome or Milan) up to 800 metres away, up or down staircases or, with a bit of luck, escalators. As if it was not enough: since they are paying toilets, there is a gate with sliding doors, which must be crossed with all the luggage, which is also dragged along near the toilet. Now, since adding more toilets is one of those impossible scenarios, independent toilets could be a solution – disconnected from the sewage system – where urine could be collected encouraging travellers to contribute to a great sustainability and circularity project. Because with urine, and I’ll say no more, many interesting things can be made. So: forty square metres or so, fifteen toilets and a small cubicle with operators (cooperatives or recycling consortia) promoting the message.

Who knows, even more could be achieved. In each of these large stations there is a chemist’s. May each of them be given the possibility – it should be promoted with advantages on costs for managers – to open a testing service for hidden blood traces in stools (it has been a reality for years at a regional level) and obviously urinalysis. 

In this way, two services would be added to the currently existing one.

And while I am talking about railway stations, allow me to make a brief observation that goes beyond sustainability. On the new ETR 1000 trains, recently introduced within the high-speed fleet, there is a socket under each seat. On the ETR 500 it is in front of you, under the table. The new sockets, therefore, are not visible, nor can one lie on the floor because the tray tables do not allow for enough space for such manoeuvre. So, the holes where to insert a plug are not visible. Rumours have it that on some routes children crop up who, in exchange for a few euros, manage to sneak under the tray tables, but this is surely despicable child labour, since as we all know, behind those children there is always an adult exploiting them. I refuse to think that this is all Trenitalia’s doing in order to cut liabilities.