ROLLINSFORD, New Hampshire — As of 2021, the world population is estimated at about 7.8 billion people. At the same time, the world population without access to a safe and sanitary latrine is estimated at about four billion people. This means more than half of the people on Earth do not have access to safe and reliable sanitation. As a result, open defecation remains a common practice in many parts of the developing world. This practice leads to contaminated water supplies, which accelerates the spread of disease. Fortunately, the Tiger Toilet sanitation system provides a possible solution.
The Tiger Toilet Sanitation System
Traditional toilets rely on water treatment plants and septic tanks, both of which are expensive to install and maintain. The Tiger Toilet is unique in that it eliminates the need for both of these pieces of infrastructure while still upholding high safety standards.
The way it works is simple yet innovative. Instead of waste falling into a bowl of water, it falls into a compartment full of tiger worms. In nature, tiger worms rely on the droppings of domesticated animals like cattle and horses to survive. So, they are just as comfortable in a Tiger Toilet as they are in the field. The worms do not try to escape since their survival depends on the waste. The worms process the waste by transforming it into water, carbon dioxide and compost. The final waste product has barely any odor and can actually be used as fertilizer.
Pathogens are what cause disease and bacteria to spread. They are a large reason why open defecation is such a dangerous practice. With the Tiger Toilet, 99% of pathogens are no longer present in the final waste product. The worms decrease the waste to no more than 15% of its original volume. The only other by-products are water and carbon dioxide. To put this into perspective, not even septic tanks in developed nations can boast these kinds of statistics. The Tiger Toilet is very safe even though it uses little technology.
In addition to the environmental benefits, Tiger Toilet resolves two other major issues. The first issue is maintenance. Standard plumbing systems require constant maintenance. When they are introduced into developing areas of the world, communities are not always properly trained on how to maintain the systems or they simply lack the money and manpower. Tiger Toilets as old as five years, which is when they were first implemented, have not required any form of maintenance yet.
In developing nations like India, there is a lack of household toilets so people use communal toilets. Women are often subjected to taunting and harassment at communal toilets. These women then resort to open defecation, which is dangerous for reasons that go beyond health. Research shows that women in India who openly defecate are twice as likely to be sexually harassed or assaulted than those with a household toilet. The Tiger Toilet sanitation systems can be easily installed on home properties, reducing the need for communal toilet use or open defecation.
Interest in the Tiger Toilet has remained high since its debut in 2015. Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates, and his wife, Melinda Gates, granted almost $5 million toward the research and development of the project. USAID also contributed $170,000 for the toilet’s initial testing. With this help, Tiger Toilet now retails for only $350. As a comparison, the average toilet in the U.S. costs about $500. In addition to its low cost, the user can quickly set up the toilet in a day.
Right now, the primary market for the Tiger Toilet is India, specifically rural communities. Other markets include Uganda and Myanmar. As of today, more than 4,500 toilets have been installed in India alone. The biggest obstacle the Tiger Toilet faces is the availability of a sufficient quantity of worms.
This technology can be truly revolutionary for developing nations. It allows for a safe and sanitary alternative to open defecation. Once the most basic needs of a society are met, it allows for growth in other areas. The Tiger Toilet sanitation system has the potential to address the centuries-old global issue of inadequate sanitation.
– Jake Hill