The world can’t wait for sewers: Is container-based sanitation a viable answer to the global sanitation crisis?

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For many people living in low-income urban areas, a flush toilet or sewer connection is little more than a pipe dream. Often the infrastructure doesn’t exist or can’t be constructed in such densely populated or topographically challenging areas, or service fees are simply too high.

The world needs a viable, high-quality alternative to piped sanitation that can reach people living in these areas – like container-based sanitation (CBS) businesses. These enterprises are uniquely suited to the challenges of serving dense urban populations, but are not without their challenges.

This new joint report by EY and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) considers those obstacles, presenting insights aiming to improve CBS businesses’ prospects for success.

The report focuses on Clean Team Ghana, a CBS business set up and managed by WSUP. Following the CBS model, Clean Team provides customers with stand-alone toilets that store waste in sealable, removable cartridges that can then be safely removed and taken to a treatment or resource recovery centre.

But the business has faced challenges; negative associations with old-style, poorly managed bucket latrines can be hard to overcome, and questions remain over whether the CBS model can be reliably scaled as a successful business.

With Clean Team having grappled with these challenges in Kumasi for several years, WSUP engaged EY to help, with a team from Enterprise Growth Services (EY’s not-for-profit practice dedicated to supporting social impact businesses in low-income countries) working with Clean Team to identify how it could achieve profitability and get to scale.

The outcomes of that analysis are presented in this report in the form of insights aimed at improving prospects for success – not just for Clean Team but for other CBS enterprises worldwide, offering the potential for them to achieve the scale and impact necessary for CBS to gain official recognition as an improved sanitation option.

“We hope this report provides water, sanitation and hygiene stakeholders with a blueprint for taking CBS to the next level, gaining the recognition that it deserves as an improved sanitation option and scaling it as an important contributor to the achievement of SDG targets.”

Jon Shepard, Director – Enterprise Growth Services, EY & Neil Jeffery, CEO – Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor

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