Types of toilets in the developing world range from the traditional and incredibly insanitary pit latrines to more advanced flush toilets, depending on the area’s access to water, electricity, and sanitation services. While the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation rewards innovations in toilet research and design, here is a list of five innovative toilets that are actually in use in the developing world.
1. Earthworm Toilets. These toilets make the top of this list because of their unique use of both aerobic bacteria and earthworms that compost the human waste into limited-odor loam. An example of this in action in the developed world is in Quebec’s La Providence golf course. Fortunately for the developing world, a research project entitled “The Tiger Toilet” has been undertaken by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and funded by a 2009 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This earthworm toilet would make use of tiger worms and would only have to be emptied every six months!
2. The Sulabh Toilet. The Sulabh toilet is a pan-trap squat toilet that uses a two-pit system minimizing both odor and water waste. Only one pit is ever in use at a time, and each pit can contain up to 3 years’ worth of waste. Sulabh was founded on the principle of liberating the Dalit caste in India from being forced into work as scavengers, and today has liberated more than 60,000 scavengers. A sustainable business network has accompanied Sulabh’s work, employing over 50,000 associates in 26 Indian states.
3. The Biofil Digester. Ghanaian Kweku Anno developed a simple, compact, on-site composting system that limits odor and avoids many of the problems of pit and ventilated pit latrines. The system itself uses a primary treatment of both aerobic bacteria and red worms to aerate the solid contents; the BioFil digester then treats what remains through a sand filter into a reed bed. Its installation is highly flexible as well, available to be installed beneath the ground, half-buried, or above ground.
4. The xRunner Toilet. The xRunner toilet is a waterless urine-diverting portable toilet that was developed by Noa Lerner, an Israeli industrial engineer. The toilet separates urine from feces and minimizes odor due to its enclosed and detachable pan. While Lerner initially focused on composting the waste in India, she soon found that the need was greatest in places without stable access to water because of drought. xRunner aims to equip 500 families in Lima this year with the dry toilets after a significant improvement was shown with 50 units. The system is unique because of its potential reliance on community entrepreneurs who can arrange weekly collection and processing of the contents of the detachable pans, similar to the PeePoo system used in Kenya and Pakistan today.
5. The EcoSan Toilet. This toilet is completely water-free and entirely closed; developed in the late 1990’s by Eco Sanitation Ltd, the EcoSan Toilet relies on dehydration of waste to limit odor and avoid the use of precious water resources. The excrement falls into a conveyer that rotates and moves the waste by mechanism every time the toilet lid is opened. This process dehydrates the excrement in approximately 25 days before it falls into a reusable collection bag. The waste, now 5-10% of its original mass, can be used for composting, fuel, or can be disposed of traditionally. The system itself also has a number of options including a toilet hut for privacy, different toilet bowls or urinals for other countries, or high-volume modifications.
- Naomi Doraisamy