I’ve written plenty about “alternative” toilet situations from the men-only “pee bales” at historic Wimpole Hall to a Brazilian TV campaign urging citizens to urinate in the shower. MNN has also covered the burgeoning humanure movement.

These potty-centric stories revolve around folks who eschew the loo for various reasons, primarily water conservation. But when it comes down to it, these latrine abstainers have the luxury of using a toilet if they want to stop turning to a bucket, the shower, or a compost heap when nature calls. According to United Nations' estimates, around 2.6 billion people, or around 40 percent of the world’s population, don’t have this luxury.

In response to the health and environmental crises sparked by poor sanitation conditions in developing countries, a team headed by Swedish architect Anders Wilhelmson have devised an affordable, safe solution: the Peepoo.

The Peepoo is an affordable, biodegradable plastic bag that serves as a single-use toilet. Once used (a recycled, halved PET bottle can also be incorporated) the Peepoo can be buried.

Here’s how the Peepoo really makes a vital difference: Wilhelmson and his Stockholm-based team, Peepoople (yep, Peepoople), designed the bag so that the inside is coated with a thin layer of urea crystals that kill the disease-spreading pathogens found in human waste. In turn, the Peepoo breaks down the contaminated contents of the bag into an effective and safe fertilizer, an often pricey or inaccessible commodity in many developing nations, that can be used to grow crops.

As reported by the New York Times, Peepoople tested the bags in India and Kenya for a year and plans to mass-produce them this summer. In the latter country, Wilhelmson found that even densely populated slums were surrounded by open spaces that could be used for Peepoo burial — and crop growing. He also observed that the standard method of disposing of feces in these areas was to tie it up in a cheap plastic bag and haphazardly fling these “flyaway toilets” far away as possible into the street or onto trash heaps where they can contaminate groundwater.

Head on over to the NYT to read a bit more about the need for low-cost sanitation solutions in areas of the world where indoor plumbing is a non-reality. Also be sure to check out the Peepoople website for more the inside scoop, or poop rather, on this brilliant invention and team behind it.

Although rightfully conceived with the 6.2 billion people without any access to toilets in mind, I can't help but think of other applications for Peepoo bags such as camping, backyard gardening, emergencies or, um, humanure harvesting. Want to curb your water bills and provide your vegetable garden with a nutrient-rich fertilizer? Grab a Peepoo! 

Hats off to Wilhelmson and his merry band of Peepoople. 

Via [New York Times]

Images: Peepoople 

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

We the Peepoople
Sweden's Peepoople have devised a biodegradable plastic bag that serves as a single-use toilet/fertilizer incubator in developing countries with poor sanitation