The Biodegradable Toilet Teacup

(Image: Index Award)

We've been reveling in the entries to this year's Index Award, a Danish design competition claiming to offer the largest purse in the world for such a contest: half a million Euros. The Bambulance is a thoughtful example of a "Design to Improve Life" (the motto of the contest), and here is another. Maybe.

Designer Paul Sandip, an Indian electrical engineer whose innovative clothes peg we covered previously, has put forward his Disposable Mug. But this Mug ain't for drinking. It's for washing. Washing your special area. As Sandip describes: "We Indians prefer to use water to wash ourselves, instead of using toilet paper." But on long train rides people are sandwiched into the cars and conveniences are few. "So people would carry maybe empty water bottles or teacups..."


Sandip's solution, no doubt conceived while enduring a long train ride, is a foldable, biodegradable cup that travelers can buy at the platform from local vendors. The "mug" holds 1.2 liters of water and disintegrates an hour after use (although the abstract offers no details on how this final, and critical, part of the process works). His hope is that impoverished communities along train routes can produce and sell the mug, while advertisements printed on the cup will foot the bill.

At first, the idea of a single-use, disposable cup sounds like wastefulness to the extreme. But we in the West we use toilet paper (hung overhand, right?) in much the same way (unless you're No Impact Man), flushing untold amounts down the drain.

Sanitation, especially in densely populated India, is a huge problem, and a design like Sandip's could avert a many pathogen-related illnesses. Bidets are great, but don't expect to see them on trains. The unknown factor does seem to be the question of biodegradation, which will differ depending on whether the paper cups are being stored in a tank or tossed to the wayside.

More Tales from the Toilet
Squared Toilet Paper = Less Waste
How Thailand Taught Me to Give Up Toilet Paper for Good (Planet Green)
9 Green Toilet Paper Tips

Tags: Concepts & Prototypes | Disposable | Poverty | Toilets | Trains

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