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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 calibre-not-output ( 1736770 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @03:46PM (#31404200) Homepage
    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 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 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 natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:09PM (#31404574) Journal

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


    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.

  • by drcagn ( 715012 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:18PM (#31404694) Homepage
    That's the case here in New Orleans, too. You can suck off another dude on Bourbon St. during Mardi Gras right in front of a cop, but as soon as you start to piss in an alley, you're going down.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • by guyfawkes-11-5 ( 1583613 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:00PM (#31405214) Homepage
    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 willy_me ( 212994 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:06PM (#31405280)

    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 imagine the problem being far worse. This bag provides a possible solution. One would just have to require that farms provide them for their workers. And the farms can afford them.

  • by GasparGMSwordsman ( 753396 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:11PM (#31405352)
    When you actually understand the English language and use its rules, you quickly see that many words are simply modifiers on a base word. Here we have the base word "Enfranchise" with the addition of a negative modify "dis" and a past tense modifier of "ed".

    The results is Dis*Enfranchise*d. The definition of the word is similarly reflected by modifiers. We take the root word, negate it (as in make it negative or opposite to the original meaning) and also state that the subject it is referring to has already happened (as in the past).

    The definition Enfranchise according to Merriam-Webster is as follows:

    Main Entry: enfranchise
    Pronunciation: \in-fran-chz, en-\
    Function: transitive verb
    Inflected Form(s): enfranchised; enfranchising
    Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French enfranchiss-, stem of enfranchir, from en- + franc free -- more at frank
    Date: 15th century

    1 : to set free (as from slavery)
    2 : to endow with a franchise: as a : to admit to the privileges of a citizen and especially to the right of suffrage b : to admit (a municipality) to political privileges or rights

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enfranchise [merriam-webster.com]

    The first definition, "to set free" is simple enough. The second definition is simply one who has received a Franchise (our subject is a group of people after all), so let us examine the definition of Franchise. In essence, it is a right to something. (The etymology of the word is interesting, its base having the meaning "free".)

    So back to analyzing the summary:

    If we assume the summary refers to those people who have no access to a toilet then the definition does match the usage of the word. In addition if you have no alternative other than using a toilet (or perceive no alternative) then the word would be correct in its usage. In either case the word would be correct in usabe bacause the person(s) are certainly not free, they are constrained in either choice or action.

    If we assume the usage is to apply to those who don't *like* toilets and would prefer an alternative then the word is misused.

    I would recommend reading a book of grammar and the rules of the English language before commenting on the meaning of words. I would also recommend that you stop assuming that you know exactly what group of unnamed people a speaker or author refers to.

    I am sure you have heard of the saying about what happens when you assume things. =)

    Here would be some examples of dictionary references to the word Franchise:

    From Merriam-Webster:

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/franchise [merriam-webster.com]

    Main Entry: 1franchise
    Pronunciation: \fran-chz\
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from franchir to free, from franc free --
    more at frank Date: 14th century
    1 : freedom or immunity from some burden or restriction vested in a person or group

    2 a : a special privilege granted to an individual or group; especially : the right to be and exercise the powers of a corporation b : a constitutional or statutory right or privilege; especially : the right to vote c (1) : the right or license granted to an individual or group to market a company's goods or services in a particular territory; also : a business granted such a right or license (2) : the territory involved in such a right

    3 a : the right of membership in a professional sports league b : a team and its operating organization having such membership

    From Reference.com:

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/franchise [reference.com]

    franchise /fræntaz/

    1. a privilege of a public nature conferr

  • Re:Better idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gujo-odori ( 473191 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:14PM (#31405396)

    It's not that they don't have access to birth control (well, some don't, but...), it's that many/most people in those places don't necessarily want it. Change attitudes about that and they'll do a lot to get their own birth control. Otherwise, giving away a bunch of free rubbers just translates into amusing balloon tricks for the impoverished world.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @05:23PM (#31405556)

    These places usually don't have much of social safety net to care for the aged. Therefore, if you want to be taken care of in your old age you better have as many children as you can, while you can, in the hopes that they will be able to share the burden between them to do so.

  • by gtbritishskull ( 1435843 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:10PM (#31406318)

    A guy can't afford a can of beans

    there is always a ready supply of babies.

    I have a Modest Proposal [wikipedia.org] for you...

  • by bartle ( 447377 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:54PM (#31407100) Homepage
    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.

The road to ruin is always in good repair, and the travellers pay the expense of it. -- Josh Billings