Search for a modern chamber pot
Hoffmann and his team will continue to the second phase of the project: to develop a real, working toilet. The first versions will cost about $2,000, a price that few in the developing world could afford. "The price will have to come down," Hoffmann acknowledged.
Mass production might do that because markets are already there. Indeed, the toilet of the future may be needed most by poor communities swelling on the edges of the world's large cities, as more rural dwellers crowd into urban centers, said Randy Strash, senior manager at the nonprofit World Vision, a humanitarian organization focused on the rural poor. This is known as the peri-urban zone.
Access to the equipment, replacement parts and able mechanics will be difficult, Strash said. The cost of a bus ticket alone to replace a part would be hard to justify.
"We don't think those solutions will find their way to the rural poor very quickly," he said. "We're looking for very low-tech, very low-cost solutions."
An ideal solution would be "a modern equivalent of the chamber pot," said Strash, one that would also tackle the cultural issues of handling human waste and move communities away from using open pit latrines.
Strash envisions a closed pot that, at sundown, household members could place on an open fire and boil the feces and urine until they are sterile. The remains could then be disposed of safely.
"The extent to which the Gates challenge will improve [sanitation] in the peri-urban zone, more power to them," Strash said. But in rural areas, "in the short term, we can't wait for that to happen."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500