Sanitation innovations help provide safe water and food.

AuthorTheobald, Molly

An estimated 2.6 billion people in the developing world--nearly a third of the global population--still lack access to basic sanitation services. Contaminated drinking water can spread disease rapidly, particularly in densely populated urban areas. Meanwhile, urban food security is often weakened by the lack of clean, nutrient-rich soil and growing space for local families.

But a variety of waste management innovations offers an inexpensive solution to both problems. One promising option is the Peepoo, a disposable bag that can be used once as a toilet and then buried in the ground. Urea crystals in the bag kill off disease-producing pathogens and break down the waste into fertilizer, simultaneously eliminating the sanitation risk and providing a benefit for urban gardens. After successful test runs in Kenya and India, the bags are being mass produced this summer and sold for the equivalent of 2-3 U.S. cents each, making them more accessible to people who can benefit from them the most.

Meanwhile, in post-earthquake Haiti, where many poorer residents have been forced to live in garbage heaps and to relieve themselves wherever they can find privacy, SOIL/SOL, a nonprofit working to improve soil and convert waste into a resource, is partnering with Oxfam GB to build indoor "dry toilets" for private and public use. The project will establish a composting site to convert dry waste into fertilizer and nutrient-rich soil that can then be used to grow vegetables in rooftop gardens and back yards.

In Malawi, west Africa, a permaculture project run by Stacia and Kristof Nordin uses a composting toilet to...

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