For Pennies, a Disposable Toilet That Could Help Grow Crops
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
A Swedish entrepreneur is trying to market and sell a biodegradable plastic bag that acts as a single-use toilet for urban slums in the developing world.
Once used, the bag can be knotted and buried, and a layer of urea crystals breaks down the waste into fertilizer, killing off disease-producing pathogens found in feces.
The bag, called the Peepoo, is the brainchild of Anders Wilhelmson, an architect and professor in Stockholm.
“Not only is it sanitary,” said Mr. Wilhelmson, who has patented the bag, “they can reuse this to grow crops.”
In his research, he found that urban slums in Kenya, despite being densely populated, had open spaces where waste could be buried.
He also found that slum dwellers there collected their excrement in a plastic bag and disposed of it by flinging it, calling it a “flyaway toilet” or a “helicopter toilet.”
This inspired Mr. Wilhelmson to design the Peepoo, an environmentally friendly alternative that he is confident will turn a profit.
“People will say, ’It’s valuable to me, but well priced,’ ” he said.
He plans to sell it for about 2 or 3 cents – comparable to the cost of an ordinary plastic bag.
In the developing world, an estimated 2.6 billion people, or about 40 percent of the earth’s population, do not have access to a toilet, according to United Nations figures.