On the periphery of Lima, Peru, exists slum or shanty communities with hundreds of thousands of residents who moved to the capital in search of a better life. Due to the irregular and sometimes illegal nature of these communities, they are often not serviced by many municipal services, such as plumbing. This condition creates a dangerous breeding ground for communicable disease as communities resort to rudimentary waste disposal methods. Providing innovative solutions to these problems means developing tools that respect local practices and work within the local context. A new social enterprise has created a service that meets those criteria while functioning in a for-profit model. The X-runner is a light-weight toilet system that is easily installed and eliminates the need for plumbing. This toilet is an excellent product for low-income families lacking a toilet.
The toilet functions by providing divided compartments for fecal matter and urine. By keeping feces dry with sawdust and with urine contained, the X-runner eliminates the need for water in its system. The collection compartment is easily removable, allowing X-runner technicians to easily collect the materials for a fee. The materials are then processed and made into compost, creating value for what was once human waste.
What appears to be lacking in this innovation is a hand washing station. Developing such a service, especially water free, is bit more of a challenge and potentially removed from X-runner’s mandate. That being said, I highly recommend they look at innovations going on in this domain as a supplementary offering to their clients. One innovation that comes to mind is the water-less bath product being developed in South Africa.
The X-runner is an innovative tool and social enterprise that is addressing a gap in municipal services. With billions of people unable to access conventional sanitary services, there is a serious potential for X-runner to spread across the world.
For more information on X-runner, check out their website. Congratulations to X-runner for winning a much deserved $100,000 award from Grand Challenges Canada which is funded by the Canadian Government.
If you’re interested re-purposing fecal matter, you may enjoy get a kick out of what Delhi is doing with their poop.