Thursday, January 21, 2010

Turning human waste into plant food


It's a sobering fact that a full 40 percent of the world's population—some 2.6 billion people—lack regular access to a toilet. Add to that the fact that one child dies every 15 seconds from water contamination, and it's not hard to see the motivation behind the Peepoo bag.

One of the UN Millennium Development Goals, set in 2000, is to halve by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to drinking water and sanitation, but so far progress has been minimal. With that in mind, Swedish Peepoople created the Peepoo bag to serve as a personal, portable and low-cost latrine for all the many people who don't have one. Designed for use sitting, squatting or standing, the single-use, biodegradable plastic bag measures 14 by 38 cm and is lined with a urea-coated gauze layer that disinfects all waste. Used bags are odour-free for at least 24 hours and are safe for burial underground. Within two to four weeks after use, however, their contents get converted to high-quality fertiliser—something that's also rare in many areas and so could become a source of income and further enrichment for an individual or village. Following field tests last year in Kenya and India, the Peepoo bag is scheduled to begin production this summer.

Along with such efforts as distributing free insect nets to children in malaria-ridden areas and abolishing fees for school uniforms in poor countries, the Peepoo bag qualifies as a quick-win project that could rapidly improve the lives of many people. One to get in on, help out with, or be inspired by!