Access to clean water is a prerequisite for a dignified and healthy life. Every year, millions of people suffer from diseases as a result of poor sanitation and lack of clean water. And every day, 1,400 children die worldwide from diarrheal diseases such as cholera and typhoid. Clean water is so significant that the UN General Assembly has recognized access to both clean water and toilets as a human right.

According to the United Nations, Sweden and other UN member states must continue their work to provide access to clean drinking water and sanitation for all people. Of utmost importance is to reach people in impoverished countries and rural areas. The situation is most serious in India, where nearly 800 million live without basic sanitation and 600 million people are forced to perform their basic needs outdoors.

“We want to improve sanitation in developing countries. To do this, we have developed a disposable toilet we call Peepoo. It consists of biodegradable plastic and prevents feces from spreading into the environment,” says Karin Ruiz, president of Peepoople AB. “Our starting point is to attack the problem at its source and offer a solution that the individual can cope with financially and use in a dignified manner. It can also provide status.”

Peepoo, the toilet

Sanitary systems in most countries are based on an advanced infrastructure of sewers and treatment plants. In many cases, these systems are expensive to build and operate, and consume large amounts of water. “We have a small scale solution which doesn’t require water or investments,” says Ruiz.

“Peepoo consists of a compact 10 gram bag and contains six grams of urea (carbamide). It is made from biodegradable plastic with an inner layer that can be unfolded into a kind of funnel. It is easy to store, manage, use and is never busy. The simplicity of it has many benefits.”

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“Once a Peepoo is used it can be sealed with a knot and safely disposed, regardless of whether there is a public collection system or not. It is odorless for a day and can be stored nearby. The risk of spreading disease is low as Peepoo contains urea that neutralizes harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites. The process meets WHO’s sanitary requirements. The bag breaks down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass. And the feces and urine can be used as nutrients for agriculture thus breaking the linkage between water use and toilets.”

Slums, schools and disasters

Peepoople AB has invested more than € 4 million in a fully automated production line in Sweden with a capacity of 500,000 Peepoos per day, or 150 million units per year. The company has also developed complementary products that have been tested on a large scale. They include Peepoo Kiti, a kind of seat that integrates Peepoo, and Peepoo Yizi, a tent that provides protection when the toilet is used.

The company has established four focus areas for their products:

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  • Slums in cities – Peepoo provides sanitary solutions and the beneficial use of nutrients. The business model has been tested on a large scale in Kenya since 2010.
  • Schools – Peepoople runs a program supported by several donors, including the Vi-skogen and Postkodlotteriet, building on the idea that children can easily adopt and spread new methods and technology. Currently, 13,000 children in Nairobi, Kenya, are involved in the program.
  • Disaster situations and refugee camps – Peepoo Personal Pack, Peepoo Kiti and Peepoo Yizi are sold to relief organizations, the UN and governments. The products complement other sanitary solutions in disaster situations and refugee camps, often with a focus on vulnerable groups such as women and children.

This article was published in September 2014