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Disposable Toilet To Change the World 413

Posted by samzenpus
from the sunshine-in-a-bag dept.
captn ecks writes "A biodegradable and self-sterilizing bag for people of the toilet-disenfranchised world (40% of humankind) to dispose of their bodily waste and turn it into safe fertilizer has been created by a Swedish entrepreneur. It's a dead simple and brilliant solution to a vexing problem. From the article: 'Once used, the bag can be knotted and buried, and a layer of urea crystals breaks down the waste into fertilizer, killing off disease-producing pathogens found in feces. The bag, called the Peepoo, is the brainchild of Anders Wilhelmson, an architect and professor in Stockholm. “Not only is it sanitary,” said Mr. Wilhelmson, who has patented the bag, “they can reuse this to grow crops.”'"

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Disposable Toilet To Change the World

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  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:40PM (#31404126) Journal

    You'll sh*t bricks!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:45PM (#31404178)

    If you're a poor peasant living in some place where they don't even have toilets, can you really afford bags to poo in? Chances are food and fuel are more important to you.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Maybe he'll donate a bunch of them to the Red Cross? It still needs to be continually supplied in a viable fashion.

      The best solution I can imagine is making deals with local governments... not that they care about the population over there, mind you.
    • by gmuslera (3436)
      Saying that "don't worth a crap" gives a hint of how much it should cost to think that it could change the world.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ractive (679038)
      RTFA
      it's for URBAN areas where people already crap in plastic bags and throw them helicopter style, this addresses the sanitation/disease problem.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MobyDisk (75490)

        That didn't address the issue: poor peasants who can't afford toilets still live in urban areas.

    • by postglock (917809) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:10PM (#31404592)
      From the article: "He also found that slum dwellers there collected their excrement in a plastic bag and disposed of it by flinging it He plans to sell it for about 2 or 3 cents — comparable to the cost of an ordinary plastic bag."
      • by NFN_NLN (633283) on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:49PM (#31407002)

        From the article: "He also found that slum dwellers there collected their excrement in a plastic bag and disposed of it by flinging it He plans to sell it for about 2 or 3 cents — comparable to the cost of an ordinary plastic bag."

        Bagged poo flinging?! Hey, when you're poor you have to get your entertainment any way you can.

        If I was poor I'd carry my poo-bag on a stick like a hobo. Then I'd use the stick as a make-shift treb-poo-chet to launch it at some rich bastards house.

    • by Colin Smith (2679) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:14PM (#31404648)

      e.g.

      http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=methane+digester [youtube.com]

      You get methane which can be burned as fuel and the digestate is high in nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium.

      Alternatively, lower tech without the gas tight fittings, drop the methane capture idea and use a dry toilet. It's more a matter of education and organisation than anything else.

      I'll just point out that by not doing this in the west, we are effectively extracting phosphorus, nitrogen and calcium from our fields and pumping it into rivers and oceans. We then burn a load of fuel to dig up more phosphorus and calcium elsewhere and burn natural gas to produce nitrates to put back on the fields. It's dumb.

    • If you're a poor peasant living in some place where they don't even have toilets, and you work your farm day in and day out - and you could take part of your earning to increase your production - wouldn't you invest?

    • by willy_me (212994)

      Forget the article writeup, my first thought was California. All of the illegals working on the fields have no place to "go". Some farms might provide facilities but when the need is there they are too far away. Currently, the field becomes a toilet - be sure to wash that broccoli!!

      I might be wrong regarding the severity of the problem in California, but I know it is a problem around Vancouver. Considering how much more produce is grown in California and its general vicinity to Mexico, I would imagin

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NFN_NLN (633283)

      If you're a poor peasant living in some place where they don't even have toilets, can you really afford bags to poo in? Chances are food and fuel are more important to you.

      This still has applications in a semi-first world nation like the US, especially during a disaster scenario. Before you say food and water are more important, you might want to reflect back on the Superdome incident. Feces from thousands of people in 100 degree weather contained in the Superdome and it starts to become more important than food (but not water).

      "During that lonely and frightening time, Norton starved himself in fear of having to use the restroom facilities. An unthinkable stench of feces pe

  • by calibre-not-output (1736770) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:45PM (#31404180) Homepage
    ...and goes on to give it a name that five-year-olds everywhere can laugh at until they piss themselves. Presumably that's how he'll collect the urea crystals.
    • by catalina (213767)
      Seems like he got the name backwards - I would guess that "PooPee" would be more recognizable....
  • Restocking? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    And so what do the poor people in $DEVELOPING_COUNTRY do when the initial "complimentary" supply runs out?

    • They will wait for the UN/USAID/Gates Foundations of the world to send some more.

    • by bpkiwi (1190575)
      They reverse-engineer it and make cheap local copies. Fortunately people in developing countries have realized that IP laws are being pushed by developed nations to retain their economic dominance - and so they ignore them.
  • by vekrander (1400525) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:47PM (#31404220)

    Too bad for Nintendo as I hear Peepoo was supposed to be the name of their next gen console. It actually works with their current naming scheme too. Wii (We) Peepoo (People).

  • by Pojut (1027544) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:48PM (#31404226) Homepage

    Occam's Razor at work. Much respect to Mr. Wilhelmson.

    • by metamechanical (545566) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:54PM (#31404336)

      A recurring cost revenue model for using the toilet is not exactly what I would call a "simple solution." Especially not for people who can't even afford a toilet today.

      Now proper fecal composting, THAT'S a simple solution... and damned near free, too. Hell, if you do it right, it's not even supposed to smell.

      • by Pojut (1027544)

        From TFA: "He plans to sell it for about 2 or 3 cents -- comparable to the cost of an ordinary plastic bag."

        While I agree that a recurring revenue model isn't necessarily the best way, his solution is the best proposed so far, and a relatively inexpensive one at that.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by natehoy (1608657)

          Except you could probably just pour urea crystals into a cesspool and get largely the same effect, without the expense of the bags.

          A single bag is 2-3 cents. Assuming you only use it for feces, you're going to use at least one of these a day. A village of 100 people is going to go through $3 a day in these, and on that kind of money you could feed six of them.

          I'm not saying this is a bad idea, only that it appears to be an overengineered one.

          • by ArcherB (796902)

            Except you could probably just pour urea crystals into a cesspool and get largely the same effect, without the expense of the bags.

            A single bag is 2-3 cents. Assuming you only use it for feces, you're going to use at least one of these a day. A village of 100 people is going to go through $3 a day in these, and on that kind of money you could feed six of them.

            I'm not saying this is a bad idea, only that it appears to be an overengineered one.

            If they are filling bags with poo, I'd be willing to guess that feeding them is not a problem.

          • "pour urea crystals into a cesspool"
            How would you copyright that?
      • by benjamindees (441808) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:13PM (#31404634) Homepage

        You're just not looking at the problem the right way. This is a simple solution to the problem of "how to get paid every time a poor person takes a dump". It's the pinnacle of capitalist science, really.. a major achievement. It's all downhill from here, folks. This man has successfully applied the razor and blades model to human existence: free human, $0.02 per poop for the rest of his life. Let no one claim that western civilization never accomplished anything.

      • So, you don't use toilet paper?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lundse (1036754)

      Occam's Razor does not have to do with solutions, it has to do with chosing a hypothesis.

      But yeah, I salute a simple solution. And hope that it also works... :-)

  • by Kenja (541830) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:48PM (#31404236)
    and here I am using a Mountain Dew bottle like a chump.
  • by niko9 (315647) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:48PM (#31404242)

    Joseph Jenkins --author of the Humanure Handbook-- has been doing this for close to thirty years. His concept also has the benefit of being patent free and simpler. Look see here:http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/humanure.html

    All you need is a 5 gallon bucket, some cover material (rice hulls, sawdust, shredded newspaper, or coffee grounds), and teensy bit of brain power.

    You can get the book on Amazon or download it for free from his site: http://humanurehandbook.com/downloads/Humanure_Handbook_all.pdf [humanurehandbook.com]

  • cost (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:49PM (#31404246) Homepage

    The most important factor is cost. It will have to be fantastically cheap to manufacture and distribute this if you want to sell it to people who subsist on $0.10 of rice per day. People who are used to flinging poo out the windows of their shacks will probably be perplexed by the idea of paying to take a dump.

    And yes, I have dodged chamber pots in India. Prepare to be depressed if you ever visit the third world :-/

    • by Haoie (1277294)

      Not too impossible: Wasn't there like a $1000 car made for the Indian market just some time ago?

      This seems pretty, umm, marketable. As much as toilet paper over leaves, anyway.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      So what happens to bags of crap they already toss out the window? At some point they have to be cleaned up by someone or you would just have massive mountains of HDPE bags filled with human feces.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bkr1_2k (237627)

        Have you ever seen third world countries? The DO have "massive mountains of HDPE bags filled with human feces" amongst all the other trash that gets dumped wherever is most convenient to keep away from the rich folks.

    • Re:cost (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:00PM (#31404422)
      Fertilizer costs money too, and increased crop yields mean more money and food.

      It doesn't have to be free, it just has to pay for itself.

    • Re:cost (Score:4, Informative)

      by Pojut (1027544) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:00PM (#31404430) Homepage

      From TFA: "He plans to sell it for about 2 or 3 cents -- comparable to the cost of an ordinary plastic bag."

    • Re:cost (Score:5, Informative)

      by niko9 (315647) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:00PM (#31404434)

      See my above post. I was in a hurry to write before, but now I have a few minutes to elaborate.

      Using Mr. Jenkin's humanure method, one only needs a small bucket and clean cover material; all things that should be available locally. The humanure toilet can be kept indoors with no smell or chance of spreading any disease. After one year you will have a nice small compost pile that you can use on your food crops. No need to ship in bags or pay any patent royalties.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        This dude lives in a first world country and voluntarily shits in a bucket?
        From the look of the photos on his site he could at least build an outhouse.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by dkleinsc (563838)

          He could, but the bucket option is better.

          By using a bucket, he can easily transport the manure to a compost pile, where it can become something useful. If you build a simple hole-in-the-ground outhouse, you don't get the fertilizer. If you build a composting outhouse (which is a good solution when you have a lot of people, especially if they're squeamish about it), you eventually have to shovel out the contents of said outhouse.

          And yes, I say this as someone who's worked on each of these systems.

  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:49PM (#31404254) Homepage Journal
    ok these bags may be better than the current method but it's still pretty much a band-aid solution. It's hardly going to "save the world".

    What I don't get is, why doesn't Kenya and all these other 3rd world countries build a real sewer system? It's not rocket science; the Romans did it over 2000 years ago using nothing but hand tools, rocks and some volcanic cement. Yes it was labor intensive, but AFAIK labor shortage isn't a problem in most 3rd world countries, is it? Besides they should be able to get access to some heavy diesel equipment on loan through UNICEF or World Bank or some such organization.
    • by vlm (69642) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:14PM (#31404644)

      What I don't get is, why doesn't Kenya and all these other 3rd world countries build a real sewer system?

      Corruption.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:15PM (#31404664) Homepage

      What I don't get is, why doesn't Kenya and all these other 3rd world countries build a real sewer system?

      A couple of issues: First is often water supply. If you don't have a reasonable water supply, it's hard to build a complex sewer system which relies on water flow. If you're trying to compost things, that's a bit easier in this respect but this leads to the other major problem: Civil planning and infrastructure. It's pretty easy to make a composting toilet / latrine / whatever for low population density places. It's hard to do so for shanty towns which tend to have a high population density and very low ability to plan major projects.

      You just don't build a sewer system. It takes lots of planning - remember shit flows downhill. You really, really want the downhill to be the correct one. It doesn't work if a bunch of squatters starts digging a hole to dump their waste on the next group of squatters. You need engineers, surveyors, the ability to determine property lines, etc.

      Certainly this isn't rocket science and if the local warlords quit trying to rape the countryside for their own gains all of the time, you could imagine it getting done, but it just doesn't seem to happen much. Functioning civil governance is often taken for granted. It shouldn't be.

    • by md65536 (670240) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:19PM (#31404710)

      why doesn't Kenya and all these other 3rd world countries build a real sewer system?

      Way to wait till someone invents a simple solution, to come up with an even simpler solution!

      Also... I heard that a lot of people don't even have bread to eat. Why don't they just eat cake?

      "Why don't they just" is a good solution to having the poor pull themselves up out of poverty by their bootstraps, but there are a lot of interrelated problems keeping them down, that need to be solved first (or simultaneously) in order to allow building infrastructure to pay off. It's worth trying to tackle, I think, but I also think that a few thousand dollars worth of bags that turn disease-producing waste into fertilizer would go a LOT further than the same money spent on heavy diesel equipment.

      Also keep in mind that much of rural north america isn't fit with a sewer system, and if it's not feasible here it certainly isn't in rural parts of the third world. A sewer system isn't a solution for all parts of the world.

      • They DO have rocks... and pipes. And rural places have septic tanks generally. But that has to density rather than anything else. They are dense enough in the places they are talking about.
    • by Sir_Real (179104)

      Labor shortage not so much, but roving gangs of rifle armed religious fanatics, well... that's something the Roman's never had to deal with

    • by Dr. Evil (3501)

      That's a nice toilet you've got there. I wish *I* had a toilet. You'd better not step out of your shack, it'd be a shame if somebody were to take it from you...

    • The issues generally depend on who is in power. Not all politicians are in it for the betterment of the country, but rather themselves. Building a sewer system and anything else were a whole lot easier when Slave Labour was around, but now a third world country has to follow the first world example and abolish slavery - meaning that you can't simply feed a man and expect him to work 18 hours of the day. The Pyramids weren't built in a day. Nor a week, nor a month nor a year. Great Pharoahs basically spent t

    • In an area where the political system turns over every couple of years, investments are targets, including infrastructure. When trying to control a group, ruining something they invested a lot of time in and need for day to day life is a very effective threat.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Conchobair (1648793)
      Oh yes, let's have them build a functional and self maintaing sewer system and let them eat cake too while we're at it.

      First thing I thought of when I read this was the images of a poop covered beach in Liberia I saw in the Vice Guide to Liberia [www.vbs.tv]. Watching that it’s hard to understand how things got so bad, but there is so much that needs fixed there. This is a nice simple solution that could help. I really think if you bring in a bunch of equipment and money, it either going to get stolen or misa
    • A joke about corruption in Latin America vs. Africa:

      An African diplomat was visiting his counterpart in Mexico. The Mexican diplomat had a 10 room house and a Rolls Royce.
      The African diplomat says: "How did you afford all this?"
      The Mexican diplomat points to a nearby highway. "You see that highway? I got 10% of the construction cost."

      Years later the Mexican diplomat visits his African counterpart. The African diplomat has a 100-room mansion and 10 expensive cars.
      The Mexican diplomat says: "WOW! How did

  • Already exists (Score:2, Informative)

    by frist (1441971)
    http://www.thepett.com/ [thepett.com] http://www.thepett.com/index.php?PageLayout=PRODUCTS&pageID=95 [thepett.com] Too late. These are already in use. The "poo powder" is some kind of fungus that reacts w/the heat and liquid and gives off gas that kills the bacteria, so you can toss the bag in a trash can, landfill etc.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pz (113803)

      http://www.thepett.com/ [thepett.com]
      http://www.thepett.com/index.php?PageLayout=PRODUCTS&pageID=95 [thepett.com]

      Too late. These are already in use. The "poo powder" is some kind of fungus that reacts w/the heat and liquid and gives off gas that kills the bacteria, so you can toss the bag in a trash can, landfill etc.

      If you read the article (I know, I know) the Pee-Poo was designed to fit within the existing habits of some of the developing world where people already use plasic bags to dispose of their excrement, tossing it into open spaces. A standing toilet (like The Pett) would require more room and a change in behavior. The Pee-Poo just means buying special-purpose plastic bags, with the side benefit that (a) the waste is sterlized, and (b) it potentially can be reused as fertilizer if the community can organize an

  • Hmmm.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:53PM (#31404318)
    This must be the famous Sack of Shit I keep hearing about.
  • by cyberzephyr (705742) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:55PM (#31404346) Journal

    I'm really glad to see that someone found a way to make human waste safe for crops.

    That has been a big issue in general for farmers in countries where there are less than adequate water safety facilities.

    It's hard to afford fertilizer in war-torn or otherwise de-stabilized countries when you have a bunch of kids to feed.

  • by ravenscar (1662985) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:59PM (#31404416)
    It would be interesting to see a corporate model that allows these items to be sold to the hiker/camper crowd in the first world with revenue for those sales being used to donate the bags to places with a need. For example, I could easily see the Seattle area yuppie hiker crowd paying $10 for three bags at REI. Let's say it costs $5 to produce, package, import, market, and retail these bags. $4 of the remaining $5 could be used to produce more bags and donate them to international aid organizations.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Speaking as a hiker/camper and maybe even a young urban professional, I own an entrenchment tool and I will not be crapping in a bag.

      • by MmmmAqua (613624)
        Speaking as another hiker/camper/climber/yuppie, the idea that you are going to leave poorly covered piles of unsanitized excrement in the same areas others choose to hike/camp/climb, just because you either don't want to spend a few bucks on an environmentally sound product or feel you are above crapping in a bag, is ri-goddamn-diculous.

        Someone comes up with a cheap way to make your shit literally not stink (figuratively, anyway), and you aren't going to buy it? Turn in your yuppie ID card. And don't tak
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bartle (447377)
        A cat-hole is not always an option, depending on where you go and the season. The current expectation is that in these situations all hikers will pack their excrement out. I've observed that most people are fine with packing out trash but draw the line at feces. I think a lot of people would be fine with carrying in a little extra weight if they could minimize their interaction with their own stool.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      some places are determined to be so sensitive that you are required to really "leave no trace" pack it all out with you. using something along the lines of this: http://www.davidlnelson.md/ElCapitan/DefinitionPoopTube.htm [davidlnelson.md] Big Wall climbers use similar things as well. Yuppie hikers-- not so much.
  • by HalAtWork (926717) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:04PM (#31404494)
    Finally, we can get those kids off jenkem [wikipedia.org]!
  • From TFA: 'Once used, the bag can be knotted and buried, and a layer of urea crystals breaks down the waste into fertilizer, killing off disease-producing pathogens found in feces.

    If you pee when you poo, then this is superfluous as pee already contains urea.
  • by vandelais (164490) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:34PM (#31404886)

    is the bag flammable?

  • by Rick17JJ (744063) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:35PM (#31404914)
    The disposable toilets could also be used after disasters such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes or tornadoes. It also might be useful for homeowners to use during a several day long power outage after a wind storm or an ice storm. It would be an alternative to grabbing a shovel and going in the back yard or on undeveloped land nearby.

    Baby wipes or similar disposable disinfectant wipes could be used to clean the person's hands afterwards, if no working water faucet is available. I sometimes use a baby wipe for my hands after using a Clivus Multrum composting toilet or an old pit toilet in the national forest, where no running water is available. I usually keep several in my day pack when hiking, just in case. The baby wipes could also be used on overnight backpacking trips when camping where no running water is available.

    As a child, I remember visiting a several older relatives such as my grandparents, who had an outhouse on each of their farms. Grandpa's was a three hole outhouse. If I remember correctly, they had a small bucket of lime and would sometimes sprinkle a little over the poop. There was also some corn cobs and an old Sears catalog, just in case they ever ran out of toilet paper. If I am not mistaken, the corn cob is supposed to be used together with a page from the Sears catalog. As a child, I also enjoyed using the hand operated pump for pumping water from the well.

    Of course they did also have one toilet and running water in the house, but as a child I found it more interesting to use the outhouse and the hand pumped well.

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