#WorldToiletDay: School Pupils in Berlin Demand Safe Sanitation for Everyone Worldwide

the toilet exhibition tent in Berlin (©Wöhlert)

Dressed in suits, Berlin school students publicly demonstrated on the occasion of World Toilet Day 2019. They invited passers-by to a “toilet exhibition tent” at Potsdamer Platz in the heart of Germany’s capital. Inside the tent, a self-built, “inadequate” toilet demonstrated the poor sanitary conditions, which are reality in many parts of the world. Bottles of dirty water were handed out and a toilet-cake was on offer. The message: Toilets can save lives!

The students are highlighting the fact that the global community can only achieve their self-imposed development goals, if they show solidarity with those, who are most affected by the sanitation crisis: the elderly, sick, refugees, children, otherwise marginalised groups and all those affected by disasters who are most affected by the world’s sanitation crisis.

Toilets are an elementary part of human dignity and since 2010 also a human right. It is a scandal that many politicians do not know this and that the states do not act sufficiently, a spokesman for the students explained. The states would only achieve their self-imposed United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in the area of sanitation if politics finally got the taboo subject out of the dirty corner. Goal 6 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals calls for safe toilets, clean drinking water and access to hygiene for all people by 2030.

“If governments and even donor countries like Germany do not start to focus their efforts on those people who are most difficult to reach, we will crash and miss this target,” explains Johannes Rück, spokesman for the German Toilet Organization (GTO). There are still 673 million people without toilets, including the poor, the elderly and the sick, residents of slums, refugees, indigenous people and those affected by disasters. World Bank figures prove that the aid is not reaching these people today: only 6% of the subsidies that flow into water and sanitation in developing countries benefit the poorest 20% of the population.

“Where would you hide?” ©Wöhlert

According to the WHO, access to water, sanitation and hygiene can save the lives of 297,000 children under the age of 5 every year. Washing hands also reduces the risk of diarrhoea by 30 percent. Although the proportion of people with access to safely managed sanitation has risen from 28 to 45 percent in the last 10 years, 673 million people are still defecating in the open – an inhumane situation with serious consequences for public health and the environment. WHO studies further show that increasing investment in access to improved toilets results in low health costs, higher productivity and fewer premature deaths.

The event was part of the development education project “Toiletised World” of the GTO. Within the project, GTO organises one-day workshops at schools and jointly plans events to raise public awareness for development-policy issues with the school children.

nowato Toiletten Frankfurt

Die Frankfurter Firma nowato (no water toilets) bietet seit einigen Jahren mobile Kompost- und Trockentoiletten an, die ganz ohne Wasserspülung und Chemie auskommen. Dadurch eignen sie sich auch für die Orte, an denen ein Wasser- und Abwasseranschluss nicht gegeben oder möglich ist.  Das komplette Design des Toilettenhäuschens unterscheidet sich von dem herkömmlicher Event-Toiletten und hinterlässt einen sehr positiven Eindruck. Zeit also, mit den beiden Gründerinnen von nowato ein Gespräch zu führen und das Label in Frankfurt etwas bekannter zu machen:

Severine und Elisabeth Felt von nowato.de
Severine und Elisabeth Felt von nowato.de

Hallo Elisabeth und Severine, wer seid Ihr, wie kamt Ihr seinerzeit auf die Idee mit diesen Toiletten und was war Eure Vorgeschichte?

Meine Schwester Severine und ich wollten uns selbstständig machen und wir suchten nach einer Geschäftsidee, die uns weg von dem PC bringt (wir waren beide vorher in der IT-Branche tätig) und in der wir für uns einen Sinn finden. Und das haben wir bei den Kompost- und Trockentoiletten gefunden. Entdeckt haben wir sie auf Reisen und in Frankreich. Obwohl das Produkt an sich nicht neu ist, kann man noch viel weiterentwickeln, verbessern, optimieren und natürlich bekannt machen. Komposttoiletten überzeugen durch die Einfachheit des Prinzips, den guten Geruch und durch ihr Erscheinungsbild. Unsere Kunden sind völlig begeistert. Und wir freuen uns über die sehr gute Resonanz der Produkte und unserer Dienstleistung.

Nur das mit dem weg vom PC hat nicht ganz geklappt…

Continue reading “nowato Toiletten Frankfurt”

No modern public toilets in Frankfurt

The following blog post is a reply (in German) I received the other day from the City of Frankfurt am Main in Germany upon my request for more public toilets.

A short proposal that asked the city to invest in more public toilets that would improve the overall toilet situation in Frankfurt (which is still bad) and that would make use of technologies such as vacuum toilets and/or Urilift urinals. A quickly drafted idea that I shared on Bürgerhaushalt FFM a while ago (which is a website by the city of Frankfurt to pool public participation). You may want to use Google translate if German isn’t your language…

A snapshot of closed urinals in a public toilet / restroom - seen at Frankfurt Airport in Oct. 2013. #fail
A snapshot of closed urinals in a public toilet / restroom – seen at Frankfurt Airport in Oct. 2013. #fail

The idea
Vorschlag und Ergebnis der Bürgerbeteiligung
Vorschlag Nr.: B903
Titel: Förderung öffentlicher Toiletten
Beschreibung:

In der Innenstadt sollte es mehr öffentliche Toiletten geben, gerne auch mit einer Benutzungsgebühr.

Vorteile:
– Sicherstellung der sanitären Grundversorgung (!)
– Gastlichkeit für Besucher der Innenstadt
– Auslagerung der Verantwortung in eine GmbH
– Wassereinsparungen durch wasserlose Urinale
– Betriebskosten für Wasser durch Verwendung von Vakuumtoiletten einsparen
– Nährstoffrecycling mit z.B. Verwendung des org. Düngers in den Grünanlagen der Stadt
– Grauwasserrecycling, z.B. Handwaschbeckenspülwasser aufbereiten für Toilettenspülung
– Aufbesserung des Images des Stadt
– Zusatzangebote wie z.B. Verkauf von Hygieneartikeln, Handyladestation, etc.
Zusätzlich:
– versenkbare Urinale (in den Niederlanden populär) für Vergnügungsviertel, die in der Nacht
aus dem Boden ausgefahren werden
In anderen Städten Europas wurde dies teilweise schon umgesetzt.
Bei richtiger Kalkulation, d.h. Umlage der Betriebskosten, könnte dies sogar rentabel sein, es
müsste aber eine Förderung seitens der Stadt geben.

Their reply

Beschlussempfehlung: Der Vorschlag wird abgelehnt.

Continue reading “No modern public toilets in Frankfurt”

EUR 50k award up for grabs in international appropriate tech competition

With the “empowering people. Award”, the Siemens Stiftung (Siemens Foundation) would like to identify efficient technical solutions which empower people in developing and emerging countries to independently combat existential problems in basic supply.

“empowering people. Award”

The Stiftung is calling out to inventors and developers from all regions worldwide and invites them to enter simple and appropriate technical products and solutions in the categories Water & Waste Water, Energy, Waste Management & Recycling, Health, Food & Agriculture, Housing & Construction, and Information & Communication Technology.

Water & Waste Water 
The entries should enable individuals or communities to create, maintain and manage their water supply and/or their waste water treatment. Entries can range from less complex solutions such as a clay water filter to solutions such as UV Waterworks which uses ultraviolet light to quickly, safely, and cheaply disinfect water of the viruses and bacteria that cause severe diseases.
(src)

Water & Waste Water may not be the smartest name for a category that will certainly also include solutions that a) try to avoid conventional waste water in the first place and b) ultimately have to deal with sludge treatment which will rather be covered by the “Waste Management & Recycling” category. Hence, an interdisciplinary approach will be most likely. I take it though that most classifications in categories are meant to help inventors only, and not to limit them.

“The project also aims to build up a database of inventions that is accessible to actors in developmental cooperation.”, the FAQ go on explaining. This actually really is the sweetest part next to the 50k EUR prize for the 1st winner, because such a database on inventions is often asked for. Here’s a good example of such a database, initiated by Engineering for Change (E4C). Let’s hope they’ll also open it up to the public and do not keep it accessible to dev aid coops only.

Deadline for entries is 31st December 2012 and the best entries will be honoured in an Awards Ceremony in Summer 2013. Good luck!

(disclaimer: I also cross-posted parts of this on afrigadget.com)

“Next-generation” toilets showcased at Gates Foundation

In June 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded eight universities grants of approximately $400,000 to leverage, in one year, advances in science and technology to create a waterless, hygienic toilet that is safe and affordable for people in the developing world.

Bill Gates with a researcher from California Institute of Technology at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle on August 14, 2012. (src: http://www.gatesfoundation.org)

On August 14th and 15th 2012, the Gates Foundation hosted the Reinvent the Toilet Fair to showcase the work of these teams and awarded the first winners of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge:

1st prize:
A team from the California Institute of Technology won the top prize of $100,000 for a self-contained, solar-powered toilet and wastewater treatment system.

In this system, a solar panel produces power for an electrochemical reactor that is designed to break down water and human waste into hydrogen gas. The gas can then be stored for use in hydrogen fuel cells to provide a backup energy source for nighttime operation or use under low-sunlight conditions. (src & image credits)

Update: a video is available that describes how this “Self-Contained, PV-Powered Domestic Toilet and Wastewater Treatment System” works:

“They would repurpose the solar panels and batteries to powering TVs and charging cell phones and go back to shovels for their sanitary needs”, says one commentator on YouTube.

2nd prize:
A group from Loughborough University in the U.K. took second place for a toilet that transforms faeces into a biological charcoal (biochar) through hydrothermal carbonization (decomposition at high temperatures without oxygen and in water) of faecal sludge.
The proposed system will be powered from heat generated by combusting the produced biochar and will be designed to recover water and salts from faeces and urine. (src & image credits)

3rd prize:
A group of chemical engineers from University of Toronto, Canada developed a system which sanitizes waste within 24 hours:
It’s a technology for treating solid waste streams through mechanical dehydration and smoldering (low-temperature, flameless combustion) that will sanitize faeces within 24 hours. Urine will be passed through a sand filter and disinfected with ultra-violet light. (src & image credits)

The press release also included the winners of round 2 – a much debated challenge as it included a requirement for “prototyping and testing entirely stand-alone, self-contained, practical sanitation modules which intake bodily wastes and swiftly dispose of them without any incoming water piping, outgoing sewer piping or electric or gas utility services”.

Reinvent the Toilet Challenge Round 2 Winners

Cranfield University
This nearly $810,000 grant will help develop a prototype toilet that removes water from human waste and vaporizes it using a hand-operated vacuum pump and a unique membrane system. The remaining solids are turned into fuel that can also be used as fertilizer. The water vapor is condensed and can be used for washing, or irrigation.
Contact: Fiona Siebrits/ +44 (0) 1234 758040 / f.c.siebrits at cranfield.ac.uk

Eram Scientific Solutions Private Limited
A grant of more than $450,000 will make public toilets more accessible to the urban poor via the eco-friendly and hygienic “eToilet.”
Contact: Manohar Varghese / +91 9747060700 / manohar at eramscientific.com

RTI International
This $1.3 million grant will fund the development of a self-contained toilet system that disinfects liquid waste and turns solid waste into fuel or electricity through a revolutionary new biomass energy conversion unit.
Contact: Lisa Bistreich-Wolfe / +1 919.316.3596 / lbistreich at rti.org

University of Colorado Boulder
A nearly $780,000 grant will help develop a solar toilet that uses concentrated sunlight, directed and focused with a solar dish and concentrator, to disinfect liquid-solid waste and produce biological charcoal (biochar) that can be used as a replacement for wood charcoal or chemical fertilizers.
Contact: Karl Linden / +1 303 302 0188/ Carol Rowe / +1 303 492 7426 / Carol.Rowe at colorado.edu

Also, an interesting comment on Bill Gates’ blog post “Inventing a Toilet for the 21st Century” caught my attention as it has some interesting arguments:
“…(…) the challenge is more about planning, management, planning, financing, energy use/sourcing (…), costs, implementation, and, in more developed regions, dealing with tech verifications costs and regulatory issues. Technology is not the first deficiency in promoting effective sanitation. (…) many toilet innovations do not make it to market because the tech verification costs (NSF, etc.) costs $40,000+ and testing programs either do not address new configurations (such as 2-drain toilets) and are too expensive. Add to that arbitrary conventions, such as the illogical traditional siting of the toilet drain pipe in the U.S., which forces the use of higher flush volumes, and you get a stalled innovation market. (…).”

So, obviously, there’s much more to the picture than a reinvented toilet system alone. “A big part of the challenge is technological.”, writes Bill Gates on his blog. And the publicity the BMGF has brought to the sanitation sector in the past few years is truly immense. “We also have to work closely with governments, businesses, and communities to stimulate demand for better sanitation, encourage investment, and create supportive public policies that will allow these innovative solutions to succeed.”, he argues. Well, exactly.

And the best part? All of the future technologies aren’t limited to some “developing” countries only. It’s a global issue, and I am glad that someone as prominent as Bill Gates or Prince Willem-Alexander are promoting our core issue here. Great stuff!

Update: here’s a full list of all exhibitors during the Reinvent the Toilet Fair (thx, Carol!).