By Ian Roxborough
The Toilets for People exhibit at the 8th TIDES tech demo stood out from the crowd: the Crapper, a cheap, easy to make toilet that doesn’t use water. It uses dry-composting techniques to deal with human waste. The compost can be recycled, there is no need to develop a sewage system and bring in water, and so you don’t need to worry about the effects of burying human waste on the local water system. Dealing with human waste by dry composting reduces water contamination (and hence disease and death) and is particularly useful in flood-prone areas.
The name is an acronym (so all Department of Defense personnel should applaud!): the Compact Rotating Aerobic Pollution Prevention Excreta Reducer. Funny how that ended up as “Crapper.” Seriously tho’, the need for a cheap and simple solution to the problem of human waste is clear. I don’t know why we haven’t spent more energy on this in the past: perhaps there are cultural taboos involved. It certainly isn’t glamorous.
Talking about culture, one of the issues is that different societies prefer different postures. They have, as it were, different “business models.” According to Toilets for People, the world can be divided up into sitters and squatters, and the Crapper accommodates both. It turns out that the cultural issue isn’t all that difficult to deal with. What has caused more headaches is the impact of injecting new resources into a community, particularly during a pilot project. The arrival of the Crapper often raises issues of inequality in access and the question of who will keep the toilets clean and functioning. If only some people have access to the toilets, other people want to know why they are excluded; and if you don’t feel that you have ownership of a toilet, you have no reason to keep it clean and well-maintained. These are questions of governance and resource allocation that need to be sorted out in each community. We need to think more about this because good toilets save lives.