Friday, July 09, 2010

PeePoo Bag converts waste to fertilizer in Kenyan slum

Kenya's Kibera slum is less than one square mile in area, but it's home to over one million people. Most of the residents don't have access to basic services, such as clean water and electricity. Disposing of waste is one of the most pressing issues in slums. There are too few public toilets in Kibera and they all close at night because of safety reasons. Many residents opt instead for 'flying toilets,' which are plastic bags full of defecation that are thrown as far as possible from the home. Any open areas in the slum are used as a trash and waste dump.

Enter the Peepoo bag. Swedish entrepreneurs have developed a cheap biodegradable bag that can store human feces and subsequently buried and turned into fertilizer. The bag is lined with urea crystals that kill dangerous pathogens spawned from feces while also turning waste into fertilizer. At a cost of $.02-$.03 per bag (about the cost of a normal plastic bag), it has become a viable option for many families in Kibera. The bags, once used, can be buried in any one of the open areas that are present throughout the slum.

Sanitation is one of the biggest and most preventable health risks in the world. About 40% of the world's population does not have access to a toilet. In India, 545 million people have access to a cell phone while only 366 million people have access to adequate sanitation. 1.5 million children die each year from diarrhea brought on by poor hygiene. To combat the global sanitation issue, the United Nation made improved sanitation one part of its Millennium Development Goals program. The plan is to reduce the number of people without access to adequate toilets in half by 2015. The Peepoo bag has shown itself to be a legitimate solution to the sanitation issues brought on by open air waste disposal. Trial runs in Kibera have been successful due to the bag's simplicity and low cost. The Peepoo bag may help the UN reach this goal.

-Matthew Thwaites