According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 2.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitation. Forty out of every one hundred people in the world do not have their own toilet.
Without toilets, individuals and their environment are at risk from contamination of fresh water and ground water because human feces contain infectious and often deadly pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, worms and parasites. Lack of sanitation is the primary cause of lethal disease epidemics such as cholera. Up to fifty percent of all deaths in emergency and refugee camp situations are caused by diarrheal diseases. Children are particularly vulnerable. More than eighty percent of these deaths are children under two years of age. Across the globe, a child dies every fifteen seconds due to contaminated water from human excreta.
Lack of sanitation also affects women and adolescent girls disproportionately. Women and girls are at great risk if they have to urinate or defecate in the open or use public latrines, especially at night, and their sense of dignity is also diminished. During their menstrual periods, adolescent girls are often absent from school due to the lack of privacy to take care of their hygiene.
To address these issues, Peepoople, a Swedish social business formed by Anders Wilhelmson and Camilla Wirseen, developed a personal, single-use, self-sanitizing, fully biodegradable toilet—in the form of a biodegradable bag—that prevents feces from contaminating the environment. After use, Peepoo turns into valuable fertilizer that can improve livelihoods and increase food security. It is an ideal sanitation solution for urban slums, emergencies, refugee/Internally Displaced People camps, and schools in developing countries.
Compact in size and weighing 10 grams, Peepoo’s inner layer unfolds to form a wide funnel, designed to provide maximum hygiene and convenience using minimum material. Easy to store, handle and employ, Peepoo is intended to be used a single time, by one person, whenever and wherever needed. Unlike traditional toilets or latrines, Peepoo is never occupied by anyone else. It is always clean and can be used in complete privacy. Due to its low price, it can be used regularly at home or only when ill.
Even if no collection or disposal services are available nearby, used Peepoo bags do not contaminate the environment once the top of Peepoo has been tied into a knot. The urea inside Peepoo inactivates harmful pathogens (bacteria, viruses and parasites) within four weeks.
Those who need sanitation the most are often the ones who can afford it the least, which is why Peepoople has four main focus areas: urban slums, schools, emergency response and refugee/IDP camps. These are the areas where the Peepoo solution can have the largest impact, providing security, dignity, and effectively preventing the spread of diseases.
The solution for disaster relief and refugee/IDP camps
For humanitarian response in emergencies and refugee and IDP camps, Peepoople sells the Peepoo products (Peepoo Personal Pack, Peepoo Kiti and Peepoo Yizi) to governments, aid organizations, and UN agencies, either directly or through local distributors. In both emergencies and refugee/IDP camps Peepoos are typically handed out for free to beneficiaries, sometimes as part of hygiene kits, and usually combined with already established routines for hygiene promotion. Peepoople provides training on the Peepoo solution and how to implement it in humanitarian contexts, and if desired, offers project implementation support.
The solution for slums
Slum dwellers often have very limited sanitation options. Peepoo increases their options by offering an innovative, very low-cost product that even the poor can afford. This has the potential to rapidly change demand patterns among those with very limited means. Choice is also linked to dignity and status – important factors behind the decision for people living at the bottom of the economic pyramid to invest in a toilet—even a single-use toilet.
In urban slums Peepoople has an inclusive business model for the bottom of the pyramid market, covering both ends of the value chain – sanitation and agriculture. Here the Peepoo serves as a dual-purpose product, selling both as a toilet and, after use, as fertilizer. To find the best strategies for this business model, and to validate it on a large scale, Peepoople launched an initial launch project in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2010. With Kenya as the model, the aim is to scale the Peepoo solution to other slum areas around the world, starting new projects in collaboration with partners who share the vision of a market-based approach to sanitation in poor urban communities, and providing high-value fertilizer to small-hold farmers. Currently (January 2015), about 5,000 Kibera residents are Peepoo customers. The project is currently supported by Peepoople donors, but Peepoople predicts that in year 2021 the system will be self-sustainable in Kibera. Peepoople is also working to engage Kibera residents in selling Peepoo fertilizer to small-scale farmers.
The solution for schools
The Peepoo School Program is a donor-funded program currently providing hygiene and sanitation to more than 18,000 school children in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Children are typically early adopters and help to educate their families—and hence, the community—about Peepoo, hygiene and sanitation. Thus, the Peepoo solution in schools also functions as a promotional channel for the importance of sanitation and hygiene to the community at large, establishing a positive spiral for long-term poverty alleviation and gender equality. Putting sanitation in place is key to social and economic growth.
Schools that implement the Peepoo solution currently rely on donations to fund the program; therefore Peepoople has set up the Peepoo School Program, which asks donors to support a school for a minimum of two years to ensure continuity for the children. The school receives clean Peepoo toilets for all pupils, hand-washing facilities, education in health, hygiene and sanitation. The used Peepoos also serve as valuable fertilizer for school gardens and contribute to food security in schools.
In addition to Kenya, Peepoople and its partners are currently providing sanitation to communities in South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Philippines, Syria, and Haiti. Power to the Peepoople!