Posting in Design
Peepoople has redesigned the ubiquitous plastic bag into a sanitation solution that can improve the health of slum dwellers -- and give some a way to rise out of poverty.
But living in high density without access to a toilet isn't just a human rights issue -- it's a major health threat to the 2.6 billion people around the world who literally don't have a pot to piss in. Lack of hygiene contributes to diarrheal diseases that claim the lives of 1.5 million poor children each year.
Even if there were suddenly huge resources available to bring better sanitation into slums overnight, lack of water in slum puts conventional flush toilets out of the running. That's why the Gates Foundation started tackling this problem this summer, announcing grants totally $3 million to designers who can make completely off-grid (no water, sewer or electricity) toilets.
But Anders Wilhelmson has been busy creating a solution to this vexing problem for years. It's called the Peepoo and it's little more than a plastic bag with a techy twist: it's compostable and contains a thin layer of urea.
The user simply squats over the bag to collect her excrement (or places the bag inside a bucket, using it like a chamber pot) and then ties the bag closed.
The urea hastens the breakdown of the urine and feces inside and pathogens inside the feces die off within 2-4 weeks. But that wouldn't matter if the bags were simply cast off into the makeshift landfills that surround slums, as feces-filled bags already are. The Peepoo bags would inevitably get torn open by rodents, or fall into rivers, and the hygiene problem would continue.
So what's as innovative as the bag's design is the business model that has grown up around it: Peepoo bags are sold for a small fee throughout slums and once filled, buyers drop them at collected points in exchange for a deposit that's one-third of the bag's cost, reports The New York Times.
Then, the bags are composted, and the sanitation problem is turned into a nutrient-rich product. Selling the bags and/or the compost can provide income.
In the longer term, a more sustainable system will be needed, since the bags are cheap (three Kenyan Shillings, or about four cents, each) only because PeePoople subsidized them. Plus, what's to keep slum dwellers who don't care or can't afford this more sanitary approach from just filling an ordinary plastic bag and tossing it on the street or railroad tracks? Nothing but, it seems, societal pressure.
Still, it's an innovative, water-free solution and could become a tool not only for improving health conditions inside slums but also for helping to develop local economies.
Photo: Niklas Palmklint/Peepoople
Sep 27, 2011
How about paying per pound of matter deposited, not per bag? How about allowing on-site entrepreneurs to be the collectors (sort of the reverse of the milkman)? I think they do something like this (or did) in Japan -- "night-waste" collectors pick up the material the way portable toilets are emptied. The material then gets treated appropriately at a central point to alleviate the pathogen concerns. The bags are then a mechanism, but the real advance is in the business model. Note this would work anywhere in the world, rich or poor, and if the resulting material were not valuable enough to pay all the costs, it could be subsidized (in theory at least) by the savings in water and side-effects of poor sanitation.
some points regarding earlier comments: -the inside of the bags are made of a gauze material that helps keep the, uh, task of depositing/clearing away number two clean and sanitary -the bag as well as its contents are composted and used in fertilizer -Peepoople follows the World Health Organizations' guiding principals for sanitation. 1: isolate feces from people 2: prevent contamination through flies/animals (because they could transfer to humans) 3: do not return matter into natural systems until all pathogens inside feces die.
For the socially minded this sounds great but we're dealing with people who are literally on the bottom ring of society. Do you really think they're going to care about where they've gone potty? Great idea, but making people see the wisdom in converting to a new way of doing our duty is another thing. Most are just worried about what they'll find to eat next, not where they're going to poo.
I believe a solution must be useable anywhere in the world and by anyone. These are poor people, but they still have the same dignity that we all do. Would you or anyone else here, want to use this product and teach your children to use it for daily use? The only incentive would be whether to live or die by using this. If my family could live without it, then I wouldn't want to. From the economic aspect, these are poor people who live in slums and companies here are asking those people to PAY to use a toilet? Do we charge them for water or food? Whats the cost of burying 1.5 million people a year? The balance of the human race can only come together, when we see everyone on the planet as equals. THEN we can begin to erradicate issues like poverty. This product has a worthwhile application, some have mentioned camping (albeit they would want it much more technically advanced), for the homeless etc and the Military. The Military contracts profits alone, would pay for the whole programme of getting slums and homeless, proper and dignified sanitisation solutions. I believe the true issue is, weighing up the cost of dealing with large numbers of dead people, or coping with the logistics of a growing population.
and about using is as compost or something. we are not allowed here in south-africa to use human fecal matter in the agricultural industy as fertiliser, because of the health hazards eg. helminth infestations.
So this is really nice. the people probably feel like they are out camping all the time. Would you want to carry your poop to a central collection point? lets be honest. i would like to know what the next step is, this is only a plaster on the sore. Is that the best solution we as humans can come up with??
I was thinking about getting an Incinolet for my place. It would save the septic. This article had me think about solar powered ones. Budda bing budda boom.
I think the idea is great and needs to happen. Its a start and you have to start some where, but It is in the best interest to figure out a way to make them easier to use as far as design goes. I like the idea of drop off points and getting a refund to help dispose of them. Some of these slums need something like this badly. One last thing i think it would be a better use of your time and i sure the company might appreciate it is instead of criticizing write the company and tell them some of your ideas that would help improve their product to help out. Signed : Just an opinion
4 cents is cheaper that the poop scoop bags I get for my dog. Probably would be more ecologically sound too. Bring them to Pet Club!
I've actually been homeless, and I would venture to bet people won't use it. For one thing, it's too small, and looks like it would be difficult to keep open (for a woman who has to squat in the first place) ...probably easier to pee on the ground, which most homeless do anyway. Modify them and you might have something. Make them slightly larger, make them stand on their own, and put some sort of plastic springy thing around the neck to keep it open while using, and you might actually have something. (and as an after thought, put a little paper wipe inside it to use also...as homeless can never find something to clean themselves, which is the majority of the odor problem associated with them) ...Come on...you guys invest all this money, and no one's really thinking or doing any real investigating. I wonder how many of the genius's that dreamed this thing up ever even tried it out to see if it works!
I confess, I was annoyed by the title and checked it out to complain. So now I am posting a giant L on my forehead and clapping my hands for this clean and practicle measure. Would not be such a bad idea to carry on camping trips etc. You'd have to haul them home but for a weekend trip it would beat hauling grocery store bags around.
hear hear!! i've changed the emphasis in your post heading. poor (bad) solution for poor (ag shame) nation. and yes, i think it's a quick fix only.
But they don't have the land fills or incinerators far away from their homes and water supply to place the bags. That appears to be the point of this new take on "night soiling". Urea-lined bags are gathered with a deposit-based incentive system. The bags are then brought to a site where they are given time to break down and become valuable compost.
as feces. There are diseases like schistosomiasis that are urine-borne, but the vast majority of human-waste diseases are fecal. Even a partial reduction of fecal matter in the environs of a shanty town will improve the public health. It may not seem practical to those of us in the developed world or to wilderness campers looking for a way to manage waste; however, if mothers in slums are shown that this will help improve the health of their children, you can bet they will make it work.
@donnasander is right, it seems like a very good idea, but It does not look very practical. If I was in charge I would give Donna a job on the research team! Like she says, I don't think they tested them thoroughly, if at all! The wipe suggestion is great...
Google for WAG bag or Restop. They are a double bag portable toilet system with chemicals to break down the waste. In many states they are legal to dispose of in the trash. (Sorry if this ends up being a double post).