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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Disposable Toilet Turns Human Waste into Fertilizer

By March 10, 2010

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Did you know about 2.6 billion people (~40% of the world's population) do not have access to a toilet? Although this is a problem you hopefully don't encounter, it is a major health concern since untreated human feces contaminate the water supply and cause deaths from diarrhea. A Swedish company has a developed a new disposable toilet that it believes will help combat this problem by providing toilets to people at a price point they may be able to afford.

The Peepoo is a biodegradable plastic bag that contains an inner gauze that has been coated with a film of urea. A person uses the Peepoo, ties up the bag, and then buries it. According to a New York Times article, the urea crystals kill the pathogens and break the waste into a safe fertilizer. The bags will sell for around 2-3 cents, which is about the same cost as an ordinary plastic bag. Anders Wilhelmson, inventor of the Peepoo, has tested the bags in India and Kenya, where slum dwellers dispose of waste by collecting it in a plastic bag and flinging it elsewhere. Research indicates there is sufficient space to bury the urea-lined bags even in urban areas. While it may seem strange that such a simple application of chemistry could have such a major impact on so many people, the Peepoo may be just such an invention.

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