Tag Archives: Solutions

“Do it differently: Toilets are not enough to achieve sanitation, India must reinvent the waste business”

In a recent article in The Times of India, Sunita Narain brings up the tried and true dilemma of how throwing new toilets at a city, without an existing waste treatment infrastructure, is not a valid answer to its poor sanitation problems.

"This is because we often confuse toilets with sanitation. But the fact is that toilets are mere receptacles to receive waste; when we flush or pour water, the waste flows into a piped drain, which could be either connected, or not, to a sewage treatment plant (STP). This STP could be working, or not. In the majority of cases, human excreta (our household waste) is not safely disposed but instead discharged, untreated into the nearest river, lake or a drain."

Indeed! We’ve mentioned multiple times on this very site that simply manufacturing and installing toilets, doesn’t answer the call for better sanitation. In the end, any sanitation solution we create needs a corresponding way to deal with the waste we humans create. Be it, gigantic sewage treatment plants or basic septic tanks, we need a place for our waste go instead of our rivers and streams.

Despite this common sense though, we still need efficient ways to remove our waste and transport it into receptacles safely for treatment. For many countries, retrofitting or building new sewerage systems in towns and cities is disruptive and cost-prohibitive, to the point of impossibility.

So, as Narain wrote so well about, Governments are starting to see the value of working within the existing infrastructure.

"Governments are beginning to realise that yesterday’s system can be re-engineered to work for today and tomorrow. They now recognize the fact that septic tanks are decentralised waste collection systems. Instead of thinking of building an underground sewerage network – that is never built or never completed – it would be best to think of these systems as the future of urban sanitation. After all, we have gone to mobile telephony without the landline. Individual septic tanks could be the way to achieve full sanitation solutions."

It’s important remember: sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Many times you just have to find different ways to use it.

We encourage you to read Sunita Narain’s article. You can get to it by clicking right here.

How Our Toilet Handles Solid Waste…

Many innovative toilets are being conceptualized, built, and field tested these days. And while many of them have waste treatment incorporated into their functionality, they often don’t have that waste treatment occur on-site. Human interaction is often needed to transfer the waste from the toilet to either an off-site treatment facility, a large processor like the Janicki Omniprocessor, a mass-scale biodigester or, in the worst situations, to a nearby water source.

In this regard, we aimed to get rid of the reliance on human interaction entirely. With our toilet, waste is processed completely onsite within the unit itself, without it ever coming in contact with human hands. Our system doesn’t require piped-in water, a sewer connection, or outside electricity: it’s a completely closed and off-grid. And with its smaller footprint, it can be placed in many different locations around the world where much larger waste treatment solutions could never fit. Here’s how it works.

Waste treatment starts with the immediate diversion of liquid and solid waste. When anyone uses our toilet and flushes, the waste is washed down onto a slotted conveyer belt that separates the liquids from the solids.

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Once that is complete, the conveyer belt engages and moves the solids into an actuator that mixes the solids into a slurry.

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That mixture then gets pressed through a much smaller tube where it is heated, dried, and turned into small pellets. The pellets are then pushed into a tumbler to be dried further before being dropped into a chamber that contains a corkscrew.

pellets

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This corkscrew then pushes the pellets uphill (drying them even further), before dropping them into an incinerator where they are burned to a fine ash. This ash can either be discarded safely, or used as fertilizer for feeding plants or crops.

corkscrew

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Additionally, the heat generated from drying and incinerating the solid waste, produces energy that is harvested and stored to power the system itself.

harvested_energy

Aside from clearing the ash out periodically (or occasional mechanical maintenance), our toilet system manages waste completely on its own. A closed system, providing total on-site treatment of human waste.

It is a clean, safe, healthier solution for anyone to use with dignity and confidence.

Lather Up, Today and Everyday

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Sanitation behavior change and technology innovation go hand-in-hand.

Global Hand-washing Day is happening on October 15. Hand-washing with soap is an essential habit to curb disease and illness. Consistently hand-washing with soap after using the toilet could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention, and it is also a powerful tool to cut down the deaths from diarrhea.

Let’s advocate that we all make it our D-I-Y vaccine.

For more info on Global Hand-washing Day, click here.  Here is also a link to an online factsheet on hand washing.

Recognizing MHM

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May 28 was the first global menstrual hygiene day.  Congratulations to the advocacy efforts that made this possible.

Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) needs to be an integral part of water and sanitation programming.  MHM is an equity, human rights, health, and environmental issue closely linked to sanitation.

It may be a topic that many are shy to discuss, but menstruation is a biological process just like defecation and urination.  Maintaining hygiene is important for women’s well-being, education access, mobility, and dignity.  Globally, 52% of women are of reproductive age (26% of the total population).

As we are working now in India for user studies related to our reinvent the toilet program, we are researching possible strategies for MHM as we re-make sanitation technologies. It is important that we walk-the-talk:

Context:

  • 350 million women and girls in India menstruate in a given day. A majority do not have access to toilets, safe water and hygienic MHM products.
  • Limited management options limit school participation and work-days.
  • 23% of girls in India drop out of school when reaching puberty.  Access to toilets, pads and water are a key factor, as well as the stigma and shame.
  • Unsafe MHM can lead to infections, and poor health.
  • Access. Safe products often not available to the poor. Many use unsanitary material such as old rags, husks, dried leaves and grass, ash, sand or newspapers.
  • Disposal. When access is available, options for safe disposal are often lacking

Social:

  • Privacy required. Privacy is important during menstruation and for changing pads. Privacy is hard to find in many urban low income areas, lacking in safe sanitation options.
  • A secret and shy subject.  Many social norm and cultural practices bring silence, shame, embarrassment, taboos associated with menstruation, blood, and use and disposal of hygiene products.
  • Restrictions.  Some cultures impose restrictions on food intake, interactions with others, mobility, touch, visiting places of religious worship, and engaging in household tasks.
  • Knowledge. Knowledge of reproductive health and menstrual healthy practices is lacking for both men and women

Environmental:

  • Disposal is required.  The majority (70–80%) of women in surveys from South Asia report disposing of sanitary cloth after one use.
  • Safe disposal is not generally available to the urban poor. Sanitary materials are frequently disposed of in rubbish bins, open rubbish heaps, rivers, ponds, pit latrines, toilets, in the field or jungle, or by burying.
Our mothers, daughters, sisters and all women deserve better.

Please pardon our dust…

We’ve arrived in India and so has our beloved cargo! 🙂

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We are currently building our toilet after it’s long trek overseas and, as you can see, it’s coming along quite nicely!

We’ll be here in New Delhi setting up this coming week to prepare for the big event this next weekend: Reinvent the Toilet Fair: India.

Follow our Twitter account @abettertoilet, for all of our tweets, links and posts from the event! We also encourage you to follow the official event hashtag, #Toilets4All to follow and contribute to the dialogue from all of the participants this year!

We are so honored and excited to be here! It’s going to be an incredible event! Stay tuned.