'Peepoo' bag offers sanitary human waste disposal for pennies

The inside of the single-use Peepoo bag is coated with urea crystals, which sterilize solid waste and break it down into fertilizer. Image credit: Peepoople.

(PhysOrg.com) -- About 40 percent of the earth’s population, or 2.6 billion people, do not have access to a toilet, according to United Nations. The unsanitary conditions have resulted in contaminated drinking water that causes diseases, such as diarrhea, which has become one of the leading causes of death in young children.

While efforts have been made to design inexpensive toilets, Swedish inventor Anders Wilhelmson is taking an even more low-tech approach to the problem. He has designed the “Peepoo,” a biodegradable plastic bag that serves as a single-use toilet for individuals in the developing world. After the bag is used and buried in the ground, urea crystals coating the bag sterilize the solid human waste and break it down into for crops. Wilhelmson says that his company, Peepoople, can sell the bags for about 2 or 3 cents.

An architect and professor in Stockholm, Wilhelmson was inspired by the current methods used in the urban slums in Kenya. People there simply put their human waste in a plastic bag and fling it away. The bags are called “helicopter toilets” or “flyaway toilets.” Wilhelmson’s Peepoo bag is basically an environmentally friendly alternative that costs about the same as the ordinary plastic bags. Plus, the Peepoo is odor-free for 24 hours so that it can temporarily be stored nearby. Wilhelmson has successfully piloted the bag in Kenya and India last year, and plans to mass-produce the bag this summer.

Wilhelmson hopes that the Peepoo bag could help the United Nations reach its goal to cut the number of people without access to toilets in half by 2015.

As an article in the New York Times notes, other low-cost toilets are also being introduced in the . For example, Singapore-based Rigel Technology recently demonstrated a $30 toilet that separates solid and liquid waste and turns solid waste into . A low-cost that uses excrement to produce biogas to be used for cooking is being promoted by Sulabh Internation, an Indian nonprofit. However, Wilhelmson’s simple and inexpensive sanitizing bag may have the advantage of easy implementation, especially for people living in the most poor and rural areas.

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More information: www.peepoople.com
via: New York Times

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Mar 04, 2010
They can't come together as a community and organize an adequate "waste disposal" system?

What exactly do they do all day?

Mar 04, 2010
If these people can't be bothered to not defecate and urinate in an area other than their water source, what makes you think they'll use bags especially at a cost per bag that is higher than their average citizen makes in a month?

Mar 04, 2010
Lets assume the price of gas for all the private jets of one AGW conference is one million dollars (I think that is a low figure). divide that by 2 cents is 50 million bags. Using 2 bags per person per day, thats enough to significantly improve the lives and health of approximately 70 thousand people for a year.

Healthier people are more productive and will have more time to improve their lives in other ways.

Im not saying this is the best thing to do, but rather and example of what can be accomplished to help people today if money, resources and time isnt wasted on scientifically questionable AGW.

Mar 04, 2010
I was in Keyna a few months ago. When I traveled outside the cities and I found myself asking the same question "What do these people do all day?"
Don't get me wrong. These are caring articulate human beings who live in an area of diminishing water. Many travel two hour each eway to bring home a muddy bucket of water. Our local guide could only shake his head at the time wasted. But most stand around as if wating for something to happen. Cross the border into Tanzania and it's a different story. Busier people and better living conditions. It was an education I am still trying to make sense of.

Mar 04, 2010
Oh ok, so after they've finished doing their business in the bag, they can turn around and huff it and imagine they're in a place where they dont have to choose between going in a bag or going on the street. This deserves a nobel.

Mar 05, 2010
What about toilet paper, or are they like Arabs where you eat with one hand and wipe your ass with the other? That's not to sanitary either.

Mar 05, 2010
This would be nice for Backpackers to use in the backcountry like the Seirras or Applachian trails. Sure would ut down on the disease that Backpackers pass on like Coliform Bacteria.

Mar 05, 2010
Interesting points cliffsd. I was in Kenya last year and talking to the people there is a huge amount of lethargy, dissatisfaction and anger, if ever a country was close to revolution, it's this one.
When talking to the better off people, they think it is a combination of disgust at the openly corrupt political/ law enforcement process, and also off people not thinking of the future, just how they are going to survive the present with the possibility of automobile accident, malaria, starvation or thirst just around the corner.
These people would rather spend their meagre earnings (averaging under a dollar a day) on water rather than poo bags.

Mar 05, 2010
Am I the only one who thinks the name of these bags is hilarious? Poopee bags makes more sense to me if you're gonna be crapping in them. Anyhow it's still better than Shitbags. I think it's a great idea... but c'mon :)

Mar 05, 2010
I believe that much of the lethargy can be attributed to malnutrition, chronic disease and parasite infections. Improved sanitary facilities are essential to reduce the incidence of many bacterial, viral and parasitic diseases. If the adults are feeling more energetic they will better be equipped to make sure their children are eating properly. Vicious cycle.

Any epidemiologists or tropical medicine specialists care to comment?

Mar 05, 2010
"About 40 percent of the earth’s population, or 2.6 billion people, do not have access to a toilet,"

Neither do the hundreds of billions of other animals they share the planet with.

Mar 05, 2010
From the name of this thing, I was sure it was a Japanese invention.

Good idea, but tough to get widely accepted I imagine. Won't these just become "helicopter toilets" too?

"What do these people do all day?" is an _excellent_ question. Strange to hear that they would just stand around most of the day.

Mar 05, 2010
Let's see, how much money are we sending African nations right now? Let's assume UN (mostly USA) sends an Africa nation $2 billion dollars. Hire an individual for $100/month = $1,200 year (far more than they make now). This equates to an annual workforce of 1.6 million paid people! Bet you could build a lot of schools, hospitals, canals, sanitation facilities with that....and they'd spend the money to stimulate the local economy! What are they doing over there...shitting in plastic bags? Africa 2110 will look like Africa 2010.

Mar 05, 2010
Before Otto says it:

There is a world-wide resource benefit that would vanish if Africa was elevated out of poverty. Some amongst the world powers intend to keep Africa poor and relatively uncivilized in areas in order to reap the benefit.

Mar 05, 2010
How to elavate Africa. 1. kick to UN out of Africa, the UN is a corrupt organization that props up corrupt governments. 2. Stop money going to corrupt governments at all. All the money that goes to the government just enriches and empowers corrupt leaders. 3. If any aid goes to these countries, it should go through private and religious organizations.

Mar 05, 2010
3. If any aid goes to these countries, it should go through private and religious organizations.

Are you out of your mind?

The AIDS epidemic in Africa was sustained by religious institutions. Any organization who attempts to dictate how others should live should never recieve any charitable donation.

Mar 08, 2010
Hi Mary, very good observation. Villagers (perhaps correctly) feel that they simply have no way out. If the drought continues will likely stress things to the tipping point. I don't think anyone knows how make a crowded semi arrid ecosystem prosperous and self sustaining. It made me realize how much material comfort depends on water and productive farmland. It's hard to believe I am somehow entitled to properity after seeing the problems they are born into.

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