STOCKHOLM, Sweden – One child dies every 15 seconds due to contaminated water from inadequate sanitation facilities. Where sanitation is poor and hospital services are lacking, many fall victim to bacterial diseases including cholera and typhoid fever. As conditions in impoverished areas are often rife with sanitation problems and a lack of proper health care, dealing with human waste is a serious issue. In spite of the challenges faced in these communities, one organization with a silly name is making a serious difference.
Getting rid of human waste could prevent many diseases in poor communities. The organization “Pee Poople” has developed a way of cleanly and cheaply doing away with pee and poo, while also creating valuable fertilizer for local crops to simultaneously protect and feed the world’s poor. Not only does the Peepoo “toilet” do away with waste, it does so in a uniquely sanitary way.
Weighing only 10 grams, the Peepoo toilet, or baggy, is made up of a slim, biodegradable bag with an inner layer that pulls out into a wide funnel. The inner layer is used to catch waste and then be tied into a knot, which fits into the Peepoo baggy. The outer layer will not decompose until the harmful pathogens and communicable bacteria in the waste have been deactivated by urea, which may take up to four weeks depending on temperature.
Because the Peepoo toilet is self-contained, it can be disposed of at the user’s own convenience. This element of the design, and the fact that the toilet remains odorless for approximately 24 hours, allows individuals and communities to store the waste in a manner that maximizes its potential for use as fertilizer. In turn, the initial problem becomes a boon to the local economy.
Given that urban areas are vastly increasing in population, toilets and proper sanitation facilities in cities have been under increasing levels of stress. Moreover, the consequences of inadequate sanitation equate to approximately 50% of deaths in emergency and refugee situations.
Clever solutions, like the Peepoo toilet, that focus on the larger issues of environmental sustainability, while holding sincere regard for local circumstances, will no doubt prove critical in fighting infectious diseases. With greater recognition of the problems faced by the world’s most impoverished communities, however, and a concerted effort to solve them, we can do more than hope for this to be a step towards establishing solid sanitation infrastructure for years to come.
– Herman Watson