#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.

IncLOOsion: Students in Berlin demanded the inclusion of 4.5 billion people who have no access to safely managed sanitation

The following is a guest blog post by the German Toilet Organization of which this blog is a supporting member:

Berlin, 29 Nov 2017 – 11th grade students of Berlin’s Kaethe-Kollwitz-School surprised tourists at the city’s Brandenburg Gate with a flashmob and an ensuing “reverse-demonstration” on the occasion of the World Day of People with Disabilities. One student began proclaiming “Toilets save lives” in sign language – over and over again. With each repetition he was joined by more peers. And even passers-by joined in. Afterwards the group orbited Pariser Platz with a reverse demo, walking backwards to draw attention to the fact that not enough progress is being made concerning the issue of inclusive sanitation.

InKLOsion (IncLOOsion): Berlin students in front of the Brandenburger Tor demanded the inclusion of 4.5 billion people who have no access to safely managed sanitation. (src)

Continue reading “IncLOOsion: Students in Berlin demanded the inclusion of 4.5 billion people who have no access to safely managed sanitation”

WORLD WATER DAY 2015 – #WASSERMARSCH

GTO_2015_WasserMarsch_fb-header_851x315

Members of the German WASH Network wrote in to inform us about their activities for World Water Day 2015:

“Under the slogan #WasserMarsch we will walk 4 km through Cologne starting at the Aachener Weiher and ending with a final announcement at the Bahnhofsvorplatz. Together we will fetch water at the Aachener Weiher with buckets and jerrycans (please bring something!) which are used in many countries to collect water. With a 4 km march through Cologne`s inner city we want to solidarise with the 780 million people worldwide who still do not have access to clean drinking water and have to walk this distance every day to get water. Water and sanitation are human rights and should be available for everybody – here in Europe and in the so-called developing countries as well as in crises, wars and catastrophes.”

The event will take place on March 21, 2015 at 2pm in Cologne, Germany. For more details, pls visit the Facebook event page!

P.S.: World Water Day 2015 is on March 22!

“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!).

Activities on World Toilet Day 2010

World Toilet” was a trending topic on Twitter today – a great success in social media, because a trending topic is a keyword or a combination of words on Twitter which are most often used during a given time and appear in a list of the 10 most often used keywords on Twitter. With Twitter being the de facto live indicator in social media with a world wide audience, this may indeed be regarded as a success.

WTD2010 events
some of the WTD 2010 events, mapped by the World Toilet Organization

Fortunately, many activities on World Toilet Day this year also covered some less virtual protest, like the opening of the 30th school toilet in a Georgian kindergarten via Women in Europe for a Common Future and their Georgian partner RCDA:

“Not only are the new toilets indoors, as opposed to the previously used pit latrines, they are specifically adapted to children’s use, have hand washing facilities and most importantly; they do not smell.”

Right here in Germany, over 100 students from schools in Berlin together with the German Toilet Organization (GTO) drew the attention to the current situation in Haiti and reemphasised the importance of adequate sanitation. Haiti is currently experiencing a cholera epidemic which has already claimed over 1000 lives. Cholera is caused by substandard sanitation and hygiene.

Toiletised World

Together with the German Toilet Organization (GTO), these youngsters protested at Berlin’s Alexanderplatz for a “Toiletised World”. With artistically designed toilet seats, bush toilets and other creative ideas, the students made their presence felt.

The German Federal Minister for Development Dirk Niebel applauded the students’ commitment to the World Toilet Day. Niebel explains that water and sanitation improvements remain a central focus of German international development work and goes beyond the current situation in Haiti. “Sustainable sanitation is essential, especially for children in order for them to grow up healthy and take part in education” the Minister stressed. “It is in schools where the foundations of behavioural changes in terms of hygiene and sustainable resource use are laid“.

Remember, World Toilet Day is celebrated on November 19 every year, and since EVERY HUMAN BEING HAS TO DEFECATE AND URINATE, a World Toilet Day affects all of use, rich and poor, sick or healthy.

So kudos to the World Toilet Organisation, Jack Sim and his dilligent team, for campaigning on- and offline & pushing the World Toilet Day on the international agenda!

Disclaimer: WTO, GTO and WECF are all partners of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.