Japanese eco award for Swiss waterless urinal

Tokyo (SCCIJ) – The Swiss firm Urimat has received this year’s Environmental and Equipment Design Award for its waterless urinal system based on an excellent ecological balance and high cost effectiveness. On the occasion of his visit to Japan, Urimat CEO Marcel Naepflin donated 250 waterless urinals to the tsunami-affected Tohoku region in Northeastern Japan. They will save the region more than 30 million liters of water every year.

Environmental Protection

The jury of the Association of Building Engineering and Equipment judged the Urimat product in the fields of esthetics, functionality, cost effectiveness and environmental protection. This distinction may help the company to further penetrate the Japanese market. Marcel Naepflin, CEO of Urimat Switzerland, personally received the award in Tokyo.

There was no scarcity of jokes about the urinals when the company based in Feldbach first came out with them in 1998, but that has changed, especially since the UN declared the International Decade for Action “Water for Life” in 2005. “No one dares to joke about it because we are offering an environmental solution that contributes to saving water,” Naepflin said.

The Urimat product does not need any water for flushing and is cleaned chemical-free with a microbiological agent. “The 250 donated urinals will save 30 million liters of drinking water every year in Tohoku,” Naepflin said during the donation announcement in the Swiss embassy in Tokyo.

Not using water will also save CO2 emissions, because of the saved energy for its transport and cleaning as well as the light-weighted urinal bowl, which is entirely made of a special plastic instead of ceramics. 

Sales in 37 countries

Urimat currently sells its product in 37 countries and has become a market leader in Switzerland and many other European countries in the last decade. Airports, hotels and restaurant chains now prefer the Urimat system due to their resource-saving capabilities and good performance. A Urimat urinal installed in an office with just 50 men, saves in average 200,000 liters per year thus reducing water and maintenance costs by 80 percent, down to just 30,000 yen a year.

In Switzerland, Urimat now has a 90 percent share of the market for waterless toilets. Japan, with its high ecological consciousness, is considered an important new market for waterless urinals. Especially after the earthquake, the public has an increased awareness for the necessity of saving water.

Close to Breakthrough

In Japan, the Swiss company has the ambitious target of selling 500,000 of its urinals by 2019. This would be a huge leap, as there are currently only 150 installed Urimat urinals nationwide. But its Japanese distribution and sales partner, Reme K.K., is optimistic.

“Most of our current installations are trial setups with key customers. The initial skepticism has disappeared as our system proved to work well. We are now on the verge of a breakthrough,” says Christian Schmitz, Executive Director of Reme.

So far, all trial customers since April 2009 – ranging from the factories of construction company Daiwa House to a Idemitsu gas station and the United Nations University to the Kanazawa Zoo in Yokohama – were so convinced by the results that they all purchased the Urimat system.

Two out of the Daiwa House Group companies have made sales agreements and are now actively pushing the Urimat eco toilet into the Japanese market. They intend to sell a couple thousand units in the first few years of market penetration in Japan.

Convincing Costs

In addition to eco-friendliness, the cost factor of Urimat urinals is another convincing argument. Customers can calculate their water and maintenance costs for their current urinals and then lease the Urimat urinals for a monthly fee below these costs. “Customers are saving money immediately with the installation of our urinals,” explains Uwe Bast, Representative Director at Reme on the cost advantage of the Urimat product.

The Swiss urinals differ from the products of their Japanese competitors Inax and Toto because they weigh only 4.5 kilograms, making them very easy to install. They are made of a special break-resistant polycarbonate: Makrolon, which is an energetic synthetic material, so urine does not cool off like it does in a ceramic bowl and cannot leave any stains or residues. The bowl is injection-molded and has a pore-free finish with none of the standard hiding places for bacteria, such as the rinsing channel. 

Advertising Opportunity

A unique patented feature is also the advertising that can be installed in an integrated information panel on top of the urinal. The company points out that you have a person's undivided attention for about 40 seconds.

One option has an integrated sensor that illuminates the display when in use. This has been commercialised in motorway restaurants in Switzerland and Germany. Thus, the urinals can generate revenue with the advertising space rented out.

Governments, including those of Mexico, South Korea and Australia, have also been using this advertising space to make people aware that the urinal saves water with the message: "We care about the environment."  

 Picture: Urimat CEO Marcel Naepflin and Reme Representative Director Uwe Bast (from left)

Back to news