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Published: Monday, 10/10/2011

A biodegradable toilet for developing world

BLADE NEWS SERVICES

It looks like a plastic bag, but in fact the PeePoo is a single-use biodegradable toilet for the developing world. After it is used, the bag is knotted and then buried or sold back to the manufacturer. A lining of urea crystals in the bag helps transform the waste into fertilizer.

By one U.N. estimate, about 40 percent of the world’s population — 2.6 billion people — does not have access to a toilet. Open defecation leads to contaminated water and diarrhea. About 1.5 million children die of diarrhea every year.

The PeePoo’s creator is Anders Wilhelmson, a Swedish architect and professor. While taking his students on study trips in Asia and Africa, he decided that urban slum populations needed toilets even more than they needed housing.

Currently, about 6,000 PeePoo bags are produced every day and distributed in slums in Nairobi, Kenya.

Mr. Wilhelmson has set up a Tupperware-style business model. After some training, women sell the bags to customers in their communities. Mr. Wilhelmson’s company buys back the used bags for a third of the original price, and the waste is turned into fertilizer.

He says it isn’t easy to educate the local population about hygiene, sanitation, and the benefits of the PeePoo.

‘’It takes time to introduce a new product,” Mr. Wilhelmson said.

“That’s why we’re trying to have block parties and road shows, and we’re doing advertising on the radio.”



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