Just imagine for a moment that you don’t have a toilet. Scary, isn’t it? This the reality for over 2.6 billion people on the planet, who lack access to even the simplest latrine. Not only would this make your life a lot more inconvenient, but also more dangerous.
Every 20th second, a child dies due to contaminated water from human excreta, and up to 50% of all deaths in emergency, refugee and IDP camp situations are caused by diarrhoeal diseases, such as cholera.
This is undoubtedly a huge problem, and on first sight it seems an insurmountable one as well. How are we supposed to install toilets in all slums and refugee camps when most of them do not even have sewage systems? The answer is… we don’t!
Peepoople is a Swedish company that addresses one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals: to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to drinking water and sanitation by 2015. Its contribution is the single-use, biodegradable and self-sanitising Peepoo plastic bag which serves as a personal, portable and low-cost latrine.
The bag is lined with a coating that disinfects the waste, it is odour-free for at least 24 hours and within two to four weeks after use the bag content constitutes high-quality fertilizer – a usually expensive and scarce commodity in developing countries. The fertilized Peepoo bags turn contaminants into a local resource which improves the soil’s structure and water-holding capacity and which, in the long term, will improve the potential harvest from the fields and enable simple economic systems to develop.
So, in one package Peepoople manages to provide not only an environmentally friendly solution to a public health problem, but an environmentally beneficial one as well. This is a great example of bottom-up innovation that starts with the “consumer” of the product and the specific situation they are in. Peepoo is employing simple and accessible technology to solve a problem that has been around as long as people have been pooping, and they are doing so affordably and with an easy-to-use product.
It must make us wonder what other solutions to global challenges there are just waiting to be discovered. Perhaps you have one right in front of you?
The New Pioneers are this century’s generation of new leaders, social entrepreneurs, and social innovators that are turning global challenges into new business opportunities and sustainable ways of creating value.
Our Case of the Month features New Pioneers that are creating new hybrids of doing business and solving society’s problems. They are showing old world companies and organizations how to tackle new world challenges for the benefit of both humanity and the bottom-line.