Peepoo Bags Promise to Clean Up a Lot of Global Crap

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Sometimes we get so concentrated on the small (yet important) details of green we forget about the big picture. Or the news seems like nothing but bad. But there's good news, too. To combat the problem of lack of sanitation and clean water -- 2.6 billion people don't have access to toilet facilities -- the smart folks at Pee Poople will soon start distributing in Kenya and Bangladesh a "biodegradable" bag called Peepoo that has an inner lining that disinfects the poo so that bag can be help fertilize soil instead of polluting precious water supplies.

One-time toilets tested, approved

Sami wrote about the Peepoo bags earlier this year, noting that the one-time toilet bags were part of a solution to sanitation for a lot more of the world's people who haven't had access. Since then, the bag has undergone more on-the-ground testing at villages in India, Africa, and Bangladesh. Perhaps as importantly, Pee Poople has received angel investment and outside investors to enable it to start mass-producing the bags in Sweden. The bags have an inner liner that is coated with urea, which helps disinfect the contents by breaking them down through enzymatic action to ammonia and carbonate. Pathogens in the feces are inactivated within 2-4 weeks, the company says, which is a big improvement over the 1-2 years it takes untreated feces to be considered "hygenized."

Peepoo isn't free, however

Some have objected to the idea of the Peepoo because it privatizes yet another public service -- though in many countries the government hasn't provided the service. Peepoople doesn't see it quite that way. Here's the new CEO Karin Ruiz in a TreeHugger interview exchange:

"Consumers/uses will have to pay for the Peepoos, just as they do with other sanitation solutions, although there may be price-support from different sources to be able keep the price of the Peepoo down. The price of the Peepoo must of course be competitive, fair and affordable to the poor."

Ruiz says the Peepoo bags are a "soft" solution to sanitation problems -- which thus far has been difficult to address. As part of its Millenium Development goals for 2015, the UN pledged to halve the number of people without access to basic sanitation, but the results have been mixed. Says Ruiz:"Most toilets are part of larger infrastructural systems and dependent on complex investments and institutional changes. Rethinking sanitation calls for a soft approach that can handle rapid implementation. The Peepoo is one of few sanitation solutions that meets WHOs requirements, can be implemented immediately, and requires no infrastructure, no water and no investments. "The first commercial Peepoo bags will be available next August, 2010, Ruiz says. The bag is a mixture of "aromatic co-polyesters and polylactone acid (PLA), with small additives of wax and lime. PHB represent alternative bioplastics," and by the time of its launch Ruiz says, "Our ambition is that about 70% will be renewable materials," with the longer-term goal 100%.