Faeces to fertiliser: innovations to solve the world’s toilets crisis. SciDev, July 2019.
- Pit latrines still best for regions without sewage systems
- Improvements include membranes to collect faeces and dry flushes to save water
- Community buy-in crucial to toilet innovation success
With nearly 1.4 billion people still lacking access to even the most basic toilet, researchers around the world are looking for innovative solutions, writes Inga Vesper.
First, some good news. Since the year 2000, the number of people forced to defecate in the open has fallen by more than half to an estimated 673 million. However, 2 billion people still lack basic sanitation services, with more than 700 million relying on rudimentary holes or pits, a World Health Organization (WHO) report showed last month.
The problem is concentrated on around 60 high-burden countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, where water is scarce and infrastructure — such as sewer systems and water treatment plants — can be difficult to maintain. Open defecation is widely practised in some countries, but it is not a suitable alternative. It contaminates food and water through flies and can be dangerous to girls and women, as it forces them to seek out isolated spots away from their homes.
But changing toilet practices is surprisingly difficult. “It’s something quite intimate,” says Rémi Kaupp, a sanitation engineer for the UK-based charity WaterAid. “People don’t want governments or agencies to impose what kind of toilet they have in their home. What they want is someone to deal with the aftermath.”
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