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Disposable Toilet To Change the World 413

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 Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:45PM (#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.

  • Yes but... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by fatherjoecode ( 1725040 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:45PM (#31404184) Homepage
    ...can you use it while driving 90mph?
  • Restocking? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:47PM (#31404216)

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

  • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:48PM (#31404226) Homepage

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:52PM (#31404308)

    Um, in most places in America, the mere act of whipping out your wang to wizz in public can get you on a certain government list you can't ever get removed from...

  • by metamechanical ( 545566 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:54PM (#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 RazorSharp ( 1418697 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:55PM (#31404362)

    "What stops people digging latrines?"

    I think you missed the part where it said ". . .a layer of urea crystals breaks down the waste into fertilizer, killing off disease-producing pathogens found in feces." The difference between shitting in a hole and burying this bag of shit in a hole is that the latter is not only sanitary, but it also helps crops grow.

  • Re:cost (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:00PM (#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.

  • by Ractive ( 679038 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:01PM (#31404444) Homepage
    it's for URBAN areas where people already crap in plastic bags and throw them helicopter style, this addresses the sanitation/disease problem.
  • by zero_out ( 1705074 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:10PM (#31404594)

    I don't know why, but in many parts of India, the government needs to pay people to use a toilet. Even when the government supplies a deluxe porta-potty, the likes of which you can only find at a multi-millionaire rapper's BBQ, the people simply won't use it. I don't know if it's a cultural taboo, or that squatting on the side of the street is believed to be cleaner or easier, but the people just won't use them. I wonder if this bag would be useful in that kind of situation, or if the people just wouldn't use it either.

    Remember, we live in a world where many Africans believe that having intercourse with a virgin will cure HIV. Then there are some cultures that punish women with floggings, execution, or even immolation, for having the audacity to be raped. Men are killed for wearing shorts, and lesbians are raped in an effort to cure them. Some people even believe that the moon landing was faked, and that the U.S. government caused the 2001 WTC attacks.

    Even if people own a shovel, many simply won't use it because they're too lazy, or too stupid.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:11PM (#31404606)


    These "solutions" for fixing the third world all suck. It's just a bunch of Bono and Dean Kamen-style feel good bullshit that doesn't actually make a difference. What these people real need is a stable government and economic growth. We already have technology that works great for shitting, making clean water, etc. The only word that a third world advocate needs to know is "industrialize."

  • by benjamindees ( 441808 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:13PM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:13PM (#31404642)

    They may already use bags like this, but they certainly aren't buying them at the market for that purpose. These are the kinds of places where people live on half a dollar per day. No poor person is going to devote 6% of their income to crapping. They'll reuse an old bag if they can find one, but barring that, they're just going to take a dump on the ground or dig a small hole.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:14PM (#31404644)

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


  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:15PM (#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 Conchobair ( 1648793 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:33PM (#31404866)
    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 misappropriated. It's hard enough to keep the peace let alone embark on a solid construction project.
  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:47PM (#31405030)

    ...who brought you "The Gimp." Another great product no self-respecting adult will ever ask for by name.

  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:49PM (#31405064) Homepage Journal

    "What these people real need is a stable government and economic growth", and population control. I mean, come on. A guy can't afford a can of beans to share with his special other, but they can fuck all night long for years, creating more mouths to feed. Most Americans can't imagine the poverty in some of this world's cities - but no matter how poor, there is always a ready supply of babies.

    The human is an amazing animal. He shares some characteristics with the rats and cockroaches.

  • I agree on the merits of population control, but in a society where the primary thing is agriculture, rather than manufacturing or other industrialized stuff, one's family's productivity tends to scale with the number of hands one can produce capable of tending crops (or herds or what-have-you). Moreover, the presence of diseases, poor medical facilities, and other factors contribute heavily to child death rates, and thus being able to make more of them is a way to ensure the genetic line goes on.

    Clearly, making so many that none can eat is a poor idea, but so is making too few and being unable to harvest enough food to feed the family. Simiarly, you'd feel pretty shitty if your only kid (and co-laborer) went and broke his leg, or blew it off in a land mine, or died of AIDS, or got bit by a snake, or killed by a neighboring group of people.

  • by DG ( 989 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:20PM (#31405500) Homepage Journal

    There's a business opportunity here.

    A traditional "helicopter toilet" is a problem; it's shit stored in a non-degradable bag. Separating the shit from the bag to make fertilizer is non-viable (for a number of reasons) So it is hazardous waste.

    But a load in this bag is quite literally a unit of fertilizer. Not immediately (there is processing time involved) but eventually that bag of shit is going to have a value.

    Work out that value, subtract the cost of the bag, storage and handling costs, etc - and then give away the bags and pay people for full ones.

    Not only do you encourage the use of the bags (a net benefit to hygiene) you inject money into the local economy and you make a profit - while helping improve the food supply.

    Put another way:

    1. Give away bags

    2. Buy full bags

    3. Store full bags until they become viable fertilizer

    4. Sell fertilizer

    5. Profit!!!


  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:22PM (#31405530)

    200 years back 90% of the world - including probably your grand parents - lived that standard of life. It is surprising how easy it is to get used to not having a SUV to drive and McD to go to. Even not have electricity and hot water for 24x7. No even have a super market to go buy groceries to and depend just on your wit to earn that extra bread that you would share with your SO.

    However, even 200 years back 90% of the world - including probably your grand parents - fuxxed. Human is an amazing animal. He shares some characteristics with the rats and cockroaches.

    Dude. Stop looking down on people.

  • by tftp ( 111690 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:23PM (#31405544) Homepage

    You'd be best to keep wildlife off of your field, should they eat your crops before you harvest.

    It's not humanly possible to do even in the USA. The fences around fields are just to mark property lines and hold cattle. Deer jump over the fences with ease, and coyotes crawl under, and wild pigs just go straight through.

    Also not all wildlife is damaging your interests. A deer isn't going to eat much grass, compared to your 100 cows, and if you want you can eat the deer when it gets fat enough :-) If you are a farmer, coyotes and foxes aren't going to eat your alfalfa.

    Fecal matter alone does not make the best Fertilizer - combining it with certain chemicals does.

    The soil contains chemicals, water, bacteria, plants and small animals (worms, insects) to do that work for you. This is hardly a new discovery. Chemicals in a bag are needed only because of the bag. Perhaps they are an improvement, but one that isn't worth 3 cents or even 0.03 cents to a farmer. A city dweller might benefit from that improvement, though - if he cares (big if.)

    Also, crapping on a carrot doesn't mean it'll grow bigger, it means you just infested it with waste that often carries diseases.

    That's not exactly how it works. Fields are often fertilized with manure, and plants grow bigger on those nutrients. Plants's cells are pretty good on separating good and bad materials. Contamination is occurring primarily during the harvest, when bacteria are placed directly onto the produce. In any case, as I mentioned there are thousands of wild animals at or above your field, and you can't do anything about them. Typically they are not a health problem. But you are expected to carefully wash the produce anyway; that's the step that was probably missing in those recent contamination stories in the news.

  • by FlyingBishop ( 1293238 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:32PM (#31405664)

    Really, you're probably not going to break even that way.

    But give away bags, and provide a receptacle, that could do it.

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:36PM (#31405730) Homepage

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

  • Re:cost (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lgw ( 121541 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:39PM (#31405778) Journal

    The majority of water used in the US is used for power generation.

    The majority of the remainder is used for agricultural irrigation.

    Tha majority of the remainder, in many places, is used for home irrigation.

    Very little water, as a percentage, is used by indoor plumbing. "Conserving" water by flushing with less is a solution looking for a problem.

  • by badran ( 973386 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:46PM (#31405858)

    For that list, you name just needs to sound a certain way.... or if you befriend a certain invisible friend who for some reason has a bad reputation with some people who have a different invisible friend who they think is better, but is actually the same guy (or whatever). It does not make sense, but you have to have faith or you will sent to a special bad place, that exists some where under ground...

  • by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:07PM (#31406268)

    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 you afford all this?"
    The African diplomat points to an empty stretch of countryside. "You see that highway? I got 100% of the construction cost!"

  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:24PM (#31406584)

    "What these people real need is a stable government and economic growth", and population control.

    Economic growth and stable governments providing strong social safety nets are population control. Not of the mandatory, authoritarian kind, but there the one thing that has consistently led to declining family sizes in human history, because they are the things that stop people from investing in creating children as a form of old-age support.

  • by NFN_NLN ( 633283 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:42PM (#31406908)

    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 permeated the Superdome. As disgusting as the restrooms were, Norton vowed to only drink water to keep from dehydrating. Fearing for his safety, he urinated only in the upper level of the dome."

    Former USM student is finally able to tell of Katrina nightmare:
    http://www.usm.edu/afterkatrina/Bueto.html [usm.edu]

  • by NFN_NLN ( 633283 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:49PM (#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.

Receiving a million dollars tax free will make you feel better than being flat broke and having a stomach ache. -- Dolph Sharp, "I'm O.K., You're Not So Hot"