Why am I finding discarded water bottles filled with yellow liquid?
September 7, 2020 12:50 PM   Subscribe

In one location of the London housing estate I live in, someone is regularly dumping 1-liter water bottles, filled with a yellowish liquid. Is there some likely health- or drug-related explanation?

I regularly pick up litter on the estate as a pastime, but I don't know what to do about this spot, under a hedge. I've previously picked up bottles from here, but they keep reappearing -- 14 at my last count. Photos. I don't particularly want to open them to empty out whatever they contain, and they'd be heavy to cart to the trash.

Where they're located it's possible that someone is throwing them off a nearby balcony. But why, and what could it be? Could it be drug paraphernalia? The bottles' lids are closed, and they don't look tampered with in any way (such as a bong). Could there be a reason for someone to use them for urinating instead of a toilet?

In another part of the estate, where a homeless person erected a temporary shelter, there's a very similar bottle filled with yellowish liquid. No idea if it's connected.

It's not hugely important, and it's likely that I'll never know -- unless this sounds familiar to any of you.
posted by snarfois to Society & Culture (23 answers total)
Best answer: piss bottles
posted by brujita at 12:52 PM on September 7, 2020 [23 favorites]

I’m quite confident it’s urine. I can’t claim to know the reason.
posted by nathaole at 12:53 PM on September 7, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: It's pee. Some of it is probably unhoused people, not wanting to go too far from their spot but not wanting to smell it either. Others may be people in room shares where, for whatever access reasons, it's easier to pee in your room and...throw it outside instead of dumping it when convenient, I guess?
posted by Lyn Never at 12:55 PM on September 7, 2020 [4 favorites]

Put up a port-a-potty and see if the mystery bottles go away.
posted by aniola at 12:55 PM on September 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes those are 100% piss bottles, you're a good person for picking them up.

Is there a road nearby? In the US, some long-distance truckers pee in bottles, seal them, and toss them out the windows in specific areas where there is less chance of being seen or when there is an advantageous turn or something so everyone's going slow.

If you live in a tent it is really annoying to have to leave to go pee often and also where you gonna go? Out and be seen? Or piss right next to your tent and smell up the area? A bottle you can use several times and seal up in between is a great solution.
posted by holyrood at 12:56 PM on September 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Those are definitely filled with urine so I would agree with not opening them.

It's likely to be the homeless person (finding a toilet is often very difficult for people who are street homeless, especially right now with a lot of the places they might use -- supermarkets, cafes, fast food restaurants -- being more restrictive than usual or closed), or possibly a long-haul lorry driver or taxi driver who is using your estate to park up and chuck their waste out. These sorts of bottles often turn up near taxi ranks when drivers can't make it to a toilet. Is there a road nearby? Or is the estate commonly used by drivers to park up?

Either way, don't open them and I would suggest using gloves to handle them if you do decide to pick them up, since they might leak. You could possibly report them to your local council but it's unlikely they'll be able to do anything about it.
posted by fight or flight at 12:56 PM on September 7, 2020

Best answer: If it’s not a rough sleeper at ground level: Someone living in a crowded situation who can’t access a bathroom in a timely way or doesn’t want to wake anyone might pee in a bottle on the balcony (or may be sleeping on the balcony in the first place) and then dispose of the evidence in this manner. (Source: family stories of crowded urban living in the 1920s.)
posted by blue suede stockings at 12:57 PM on September 7, 2020

Definitely pee bottles. The balcony-owners may not have running water to flush toilets with.
posted by kimberussell at 1:00 PM on September 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

There's been an increase in the US of piss bottles from people driving long distances and trying to avoid stopping in to use the bathroom to avoid exposure to covid. I don't know if that's a factor in London.
posted by Candleman at 1:07 PM on September 7, 2020 [4 favorites]

100 percent human urine. my inner 12 year old loves that this is an answer to an ask question.
posted by dudemanlives at 1:25 PM on September 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

some long-distance truckers pee in bottles, seal them, and toss them out the windows

...hence the term, Trucker Bombs
posted by Rash at 1:33 PM on September 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Watch out for the human feces in bags that is the traditional truck stop accompaniment to bottles of piss.
posted by quacks like a duck at 1:37 PM on September 7, 2020

Maybe someone is self-isolating, and doesn't want to use a communal bathroom more often than necessary?
posted by kate4914 at 1:45 PM on September 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There’s a subReddit called NeckbeardNests showing photos of people’s messy rooms / gaming areas / hoards. Commenters like to count the pee bottles. So... pee bottles can also be the product of apathy, or depression, or hoarding disorder.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 1:51 PM on September 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

Where I live, I think taxi/uber drivers regularly leave them on curbs.
posted by stray at 2:35 PM on September 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: 100% piss bottles, also common for couriers and assorted gig economy delivery people (amazon, deliveroo, etc) who can't take time out to find somewhere with a loo and / or aren't allowed to use it
posted by inire at 3:24 PM on September 7, 2020 [7 favorites]

Yep, I'd attribute it to delivery or taxi drivers rather than anyone else. I totally sympathise with them for having to use them, but can't see why they wouldn't pour it down a drain.
posted by ambrosen at 4:54 PM on September 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Nthing piss bottles and good on you for cleaning them up. I'm mostly familiar with them as trucker bombs as mentioned above.
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:42 PM on September 7, 2020

There is a shortage of public restrooms, period, due to covid and gas stations being understaffed for sanitizing. It’s probably more than truckers.

Source: day trip (hike) with a kiddo that drank too much water when we got back to the car. After the third attempt at a restroom failed, we got creative. No bottles were involved.
posted by childofTethys at 7:09 PM on September 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Piss drains smell bad, that's why not just to drain them. If you yourself want to empty them (like, with gloves and tongs) do it with a good flush of something effective. I also think if you or anyone put them in domestic or public waste bins that's unfortunately creating a lot of piss bomb for waste disposal workers.
posted by lokta at 5:06 AM on September 8, 2020

Gamers sometimes pee in bottles too.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:30 AM on September 8, 2020

Response by poster: Well, that's me educated! (And privilege checked.) Thanks everyone. No good way of dealing with it – I can't empty them out, and dumping them full in the waste bins isn't great either. I'll report it to the council – perhaps they are used to dealing with it.
posted by snarfois at 9:33 AM on September 8, 2020

You could empty them out into a toilet or sink! Then they're as clean, maybe cleaner than any other bottle you toss or recycle.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:06 AM on September 8, 2020

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