Flying Toilet 2.0

The Peepoo bag – an upgrade to the flying toilet issue:

The Peepoo bag is a biodegradable bioplastic bag “that sanitise the human excreta shortly after the defecation, preventing the faeces from contaminating the immediate as well as the larger environment”. It’s clearly aimed at current users of flying toilets (~ defecate in a bag during the night or at dawn and throw it away), which is why Peepoople are currently testing it in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya.

2008 is almost closing and with all that terror and stupidity we’ve seen in the world, I’ve? asked myself about the impact of the International Year of Sanitation which was set up by the UNSGAB for 2008 and whether it actually changed anything to the better.

What about you? Have you thought about or improved your sanitary facilities? Do you have a proper toilet at home and at work? Yes?

Am asking because my (former) colleagues at work actually tested these bags and – not being used to the Flying Toilet system – came up with a list of pros and cons regarding this “technology”:

pro

  • good for temporary / emergency situations
  • may be used at home at night
  • allows for a sanitization within a short time and prevents odours
  • polyethylene (PE) bag decomposes into carbon and hydrogen compounds after about ~ 80 days
  • relatively low cost

cons

  • no permanent nor sustainable solution
  • plastic bag may be too thin + too small
  • ammonia gas may leak from torn bags & will become an immediate public health problem
  • bag system is patented => how do you prevent fake (= non biodegradable) bags?

Turns out I am the only person in the office who thinks this may be an improvement to the people in Kibera.

What do YOU think? Will this be an interesting alternative for over-populated areas such as Kibera?

[UPDATE]: There’s a follow-up to this post on Saniblog.

13 comments » Write a comment

  1. The peepoo bag may be a suitable temporary solution. The problems of a slum like Kibera, however, cannot be solved with a plastic bag toilet. The abject poverty which drives people into Kibera and similar slums does not have a natural cause – it is man made. We are bailing out the richest of our earth with huge amounts of money but when it comes to the poor, we suggest they have to help themselves in order for their situation to become sustainable. What a hypocrisy. We have to stop exploiting the poor – by paying just prices for agricultural products, stopping wars and paying for resources instead of stealing them from messed up countries, where we created the mess exactly for the purpose of being able to steal more easily. Then there will be no need for plastic bag toilet anymore. Everybody will afford a permanent structure.

    Regards,
    Martin

    • Amen to that, Martin!

      As for Kibera, I also think that the GoK has to come out and openly declare who’s the owner of this land and how they want to have this piece of land populated. These bags are just very temporary solutions.

      Another interesting detail is that many bio-mechanical treatment sites (in Germany) preselect these so-called bioplastics from the organic waste as the bioplastic requires a temperature above 60°C to actively rot within the given timeframe.

  2. My statement above deals with the global and political aspect of the sanitation problem in slums and indeed slums more generally. There is no such short term solution in sight, however, even though the pressure on industrialised countries (owners/robbers of 80% of the earth’s wealth) is mounting, from South America, South East Asia…

    Imho the short term sanitation problem in slums is not that much where to pee and poo (ie. urinate and defecate, piss and shit… ;) but where and how to dispose of the products. That is where Ecosanitation can provide a possible solution, turning urine into a valuable fertiliser and faeces into a soil conditioner and carbon sink, assisting in the design of suitable toilets for any sort of habitat and the organisation of a save collection and reuse chain.

    Let us continue to work at it in 2009, after this memorable IYS 2008.
    My best wishes
    Martin

  3. Did anybody ever figure out the value of faeces in terms of Certified Emission Reductions (CERs)? Maybe that is a source of funding for activities in slums.

  4. One of the objectives of sanitation is to provide dignity – there is nothing dignified about having to defecate in a plastic bag even if it is biodegradable. As many studies have shown, people generally adopt improved sanitation solutions not for health or environmental reasons but for status and privacy. Neither are provided by the Peepoo bag.

    The peepoople.com web site speaks of a “soft approach” which will lead to “different service systems to establish themselves” and that the “value as fertilizer” will enable “collecting and disposal systems to arise, informally or formal, private or public, small scale or large scale”. Even if such spontaneous development would happen (where is the proof?), it remains a form of manual scavenging, a degrading practice that countries in Asia and Africa are striving to abolish.

    The Peepoople.com business model assumes the poor will be willing and able to purchase Peepoo bags because there is already an “existing commercial market”, which sells “cheap low quality recycled plastic” for use as flying toilets. We can assume that these bags will remain cheaper than the patented Peepoo bags, so why would consumers purchase the more expensive alternative? Peepoo bags would need to be subsidized or accompanied by an expensive, continued promotional campaign and who will pay for that?

    Proctor & Gamble failed to commercially exploit their patented Pur disinfectant sachets aimed at poor consumers in developing countries. Something for Peepoople.com to look into.

    There are organizations like Amref and Maji na Uganisi already working in Kibera, who are aiming to replace flying toilets with improved sanitation.

    A local innovative Kenyan NGO, Ecotact has developed the communal ecosan Iko-Toilet. It not only produces fertilizer and methane, but also provides additional services such as showers, an ATM and rental space for microentrepeneurs.

    These are the kind of local initiatives that deserve our support.

    Cor Dietvorst, IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre
    The above views are my own and do not represent those of IRC

  5. Hi JKE,

    No, I just came across the Iko-Toilet and David Kuria’s Ecotact recently when they were announced as one of the winners of the Global Water Challenge.

    Anyway thanks for the tip, I shall contact him get an update on Iko-toilet developments.

    Cor

  6. I felt same way but reality is people in kibera love the peepoo system. I spoke to them and everyone wants a flush loo but no sustainable water options exist. for now shouldn’t we be thanking the peepoo folk?

  7. Dear Paula,

    The Kenyan Public Health Act prescribes the health and safety measures that landlords must comply with, including the provision of sanitation and other services. As with other provisions, the local authorities do not enforce these against landlords or developers who build and rent homes in slums and settlements like Kibera.

    Amnesty International has visited Kibera and other Nairobi slums as part of their global “Demand Dignity” campaign. The lack of adequate water and sanitation are recognized as human rights abuses. Amnesty is mobilizing slum residents to demand adequate housing and basic services. Why should they accept a temporary, inadequate solution like PeePoo?

    Read more about Demand Dignity at http://tinyurl.com/ld4jds

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