Image credit: Peepoople
Hygenic, Biodegradable Single-use Toilets for the Developing World
It's no great secret that sanitation and clean drinking water are major challenges in much of the world. But, like the Life Straw or Freeplay's self-powered lights and radios, solutions don't always have to be high tech or expensive. In fact, they are often more effective when they are not. That's where Peepoople come in. The Swedish company has developed an affordable, biodegradable single use toilet bag that they claim could revolutionize sanitation for the developing world. Read on to find out more. The Peepoo bag is designed specifically so it can be used in private, with no need for either water (except for hand washing) nor contact with human waste:
The Peepoo bag is in the form of a slim elongated bag size 14 x 38 cm. Within the bag there is a thinner gauze that measures 26 x 24 cm. The inside of the Peepoo bags is coated with a thin film of urea. Without sacrificing ergonomic function the bag’s design is adapted in every way so that it might be manufactured at as low a price as possible and sold to the groups with weakest purchasing power in the world. The Peepoo bag is easy to carry and easy to use. It does´t need any supporting structure, but for convenience a cut PET-bottle can help a lot.
The inside of the Peepoo bag is coated with a thin film of urea. Urea is the most common fertiliser in the world and is a non-hazardous chemical. It is found, for example, in toothpaste or skin cream often under the name of carbamide. When the urea comes into contact with faeces or urine, an enzymatic breakdown takes place into ammonia and carbonate, driven by enzymes which are naturally occurring in faeces.
As the urea is broken down, the pH value of the material increases and hygienisation begins.
Organisms which produce diseases (pathogens) which may be found in faeces (bacteria, viruses and parasites) are inactivated within 2-4 weeks depending on the surrounding temperature. The presence in urine of organisms which cause diseases is at a considerably lower level than in faeces and the hygienisation of the urine occurs more quickly. With conventional urine processing, urine sorting, the primary source of contamination is derived from faeces; this risk does not arise here since the bag is a disposable toilet.
Untreated faeces cannot be regarded as hygienised until 1-2 years storage has passed. The urea treatment is the simplest and most efficient treatment available. In the end when the bags degrade in the soil, the ammonia acts as a harmless fertiliser taken up by the plants.
Of course ideally we'd have well organized composting toilet systems everywhere - without the need for disposable bags. But ideals and reality do not always converge. For now the Peepoo Bag looks like it could serve a vital purpose in creating affordable, clean solutions to the problem of human waste. And I'm glad to see that Peepoople are looking to make their product from 100% renewable materials in the very near future.