Public healthRethinking the toilet model in developing countries

Published 15 March 2012

More than 2.6 billion people around the world lack access to basic sanitation, and more than 40 percent of the world’s population lack access to even the simplest latrine; the lack of sanitation creates serious problems, including environmental pollution, unsafe surroundings, and increasing the outbreak of lethal epidemic diseases such as cholera; Swedish company offers a solution

Preparing and disposing the Peepoo

More than 2.6 billion people around the world lack access to basic sanitation. More than 40 percent of the world’s population lack access to even the simplest latrine.

Swedish company Peepoople has a solution: Peepoo. It is a personal, single-use, self-sanitizing, fully biodegradable toilet that prevents feces from contaminating the immediate area as well as the surrounding ecosystem. After use, Peepoo turns into valuable fertilizer that can increase food security.

The company says that the lack of sanitation creates serious problems worldwide including environmental pollution, social problems, and unsafe surroundings, as well as increasing the outbreak of lethal epidemic diseases such as cholera.

Without toilets, individuals and their environment are at risk from contamination of fresh water and ground water.

Women, adolescent girls, and children are the most vulnerable group suffering from lack of basic sanitation. Up to 50 percent of all deaths in emergency, refugee, and IDP camp situations are caused by diarrheal diseases. More than 80 percent of these deaths are children under two years of age.

Where sanitation is poor, bacterial infections such as typhoid fever, cholera, and shigellosis are common. Cholera can be life-threatening if the infected person is not able to receive health care.

Viruses are assumed to be responsible for many undiagnosed cases and rotaviruses are by far the largest cause of diarrhea in children. This contributes to child mortality in developing countries.

Enteric parasitic infection with helminths and protozoa are of greater concern in developing countries than in industrialized countries. On a worldwide basis, Ascaris lumbricoides is the most common helminth infection, with more than 25 percent of all humans being infected. Ascaris infections, even in many cases that are not life-threatening, disable nutrient uptake and hamper child development. Protozoa as amoeba, cryptosporidia and giardia are responsible for a majority of enteric infections, causing both illness and death.

Rethinking the toilet model
The company notes that the best way to a solution is to start at the source. Prevent disease transmission as soon as possible through rapid inactivation of pathogens directly after defecation. Providing latrines would help alleviate the problem, but there are problems with this solution.

Many people in developing countries are too poor to equip their dwelling with toilets. As importantly, most toilets are part of larger infrastructure systems, dependent on complex investments and institutional changes. A quick, easily deployable and sustainable solution would involve rethinking this toilet model.

The Peepoo is compact in size and weighing ten grams, and is thus designed to provide maximum hygiene and convenience using minimum material. Peepoo comes in the form of a slim biodegradable bag, with an inner layer that unfolds to form a wide funnel.

The company says Peepoo is intended to be used a single time, by one person, whenever and wherever needed. Unlike traditional toilets or latrines, Peepoo is never occupied by anyone else. It is always clean and can be used in complete privacy.

After use, even if no collection or disposal services are available nearby, Peepoo does not contaminate the environment once the top of Peepoo has been tied into a knot. The urea inside Peepoo inactivates harmful pathogens (bacteria, viruses, and parasites) within two to four weeks, depending on the temperature, and Peepoo does not start to break down until its contents have been completely sanitized.

The company says that these self-sanitizing attributes allow Peepoo to remain safe to hold and carry after use. Because scarce and valuable water resources are not required to use or dispose of Peepoo, the traditional link between water and sanitation is cut. Water is only needed when the user washes his or her hands.

Peepoo remains odor-free for at least twenty-four hours after use and can be stored in the immediate environment.

Peepoo is made of a bio-plastic that meets EU standard EN13432. This means the plastic not only disintegrates, but that the molecules break down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass.

Combined with the hygienization process that urea initiates and completes, Peepoo transforms over a short period of time into high-value fertilizer.