Pooping In This Bag Could Save Lives

It didn't take Tuesday's World Toilet Day for a Swedish firm to get to work on the global sanitation crisis.

Peepoople has been testing its biodegradable toilet bag, called a Peepoo, in the Nairobi slum of Kibera for years and just shipped 1 million of the units to the typhoon-stricken Philippines, company co-founder Camilla Wirseen told The Huffington Post.

The company recently launched manufacturing facilities in Germany to produce 500,000 of the portable toilets a day.

The need is underscored by World Toilet Day, which is now officially recognized by the United Nations. WaterAid notes that one child dies every 60 seconds for lack of proper waste disposal and 700,000 die annually from diarrhea caused by contaminated water.

The Peepoo concept is simple: It is a bag within a bag, and the inside layer contains a pathogen-killing ammonia. The Peepoo can be attached to a pot to form a toilet-like receptacle. After use, the bags are then knotted and can be taken to drop-off facilities, where they eventually are converted into fertilizer.


A step-by-step guide to using the Peepoo.

"We wanted to find a way to make a sustainable sanitation solution," Wirseen said.

Invented in 2005 by a Swedish professor named Anders Wilhelmson, the Peepoo has been field-tested in Bangladesh and in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

Wirseen estimated that the bags currently service 10,000 schoolchildren and 12,000 families in Kibera, an area in Kenya that has just one public restroom for every 300 residents. Kibera is plagued by so-called "flying toilets," a name some have given to the bags of human waste tossed into the street, according to the Agence France-Presse. Peepoople hopes to increase its presence there 10-fold by 2016, Wirseen told HuffPost.

Kibera schoolteacher Ann Wambui told the AFP that Peepoo has had a positive impact. "When Peepoo was brought in, it changed almost everything," she said.

The Peepoo is for-profit. An NGO has supported the Kibera phase, and UNICEF and the Swedish Red Cross covered the cost of the supplies sent to the Philippines, according Wirseen. Peepoos cost about 3 Euros (roughly $4) for a month of toilets (28) for one person, Wirseen estimated.

The AFP notes that Peepoo's business model is unproven as a "long-term sustainable solution" because it depends on poor people paying for waste disposal when they can do it -- however unsafely -- for free.

But Wirseen remains undaunted. "Now we just want to reach out even more, specifically in emergencies like refugee camps," she said.



World Sanitation Facts