If you travel to Paris, you may notice a number of red boxes around the city. Though they look like trash bins or mailboxes, they’re neither. They’re actually uritrottoirs, or open-air Paris urinals. Designed to curb public urination, the uritrottoirs are causing controversy over their lack of privacy.
The Paris urinals have a lot going for them: They’re eco-friendly (using straw to eliminate odor) and the pee easily converts into compost. According to Paris officials, if you kept your pee for a year, it would contain enough nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to fertilize over 4,300 square feet of wheat. The uritrottoirs are also in high-traffic areas to provide access for an easy place to relieve yourself without making a mess.
The name “uritrottoir” comes from the French words for “urine” (“urine”, oddly enough) and “sidewalk” (“trottoir”). The makers of the Paris urinals hope the device will curb drunk people from peeing in the streets.
Unfortunately, the public urinals are controversial. Paris residents object to the fact that the urinals aren’t in more private areas, allowing everyone to see someone peeing into a box. Likewise, the device only helps those with penises, and has been criticized on feminist grounds.
Gwendoline Coipeault of the feminist group Femmes Solidairs told Reuters, “They have been installed on a sexist proposition: Men cannot control themselves (from the bladder point of view) and so all of society has to adapt. The public space must be transformed to cause them minimum discomfort.”
Right now, there are only four uritrottoirs in Paris, but authorities are considering adding a fifth. If you’d like to see the Paris urinals, you can find them on the Boulevard de Clichy, Place Henri Frenay near the financial district, next to the Gare du Nord and at Square Tino Rossi on the Seine.