Coming off our review of The Big Necessity, we were inspired by a recent email concerning the PeePoo, a plastic bag-cum-toilet for the developing world. So we got in touch with the co-designer of the device, Peter Thuvander, to provide some first-hand reflections on the project. Here's Peter:
It could be that the cruel reality of shit has escaped you. To let you in on the numbers, approximately 2.6 billion people lack sanitation. The consequences of this are horrific. One child in the world dies every 15 seconds due to contaminated water. If there ever was a holy grail of design and technology, this is it.
When long-time client (and now friend) Anders Wilhelmson, the famous Swedish architect), presented a vision of a world-changing system of sanitation, he was extremely passionate: "What if one could shit or pee in a bag? A bag that would sanitize the feces, and then later on break down itself, all becoming manure?"
"Well, yes Anders, that would be fantastic, but how?" I replied.
At first we didn't have a clue how to turn his idea into reality. Luckily, it turns out that Sweden is the centre of ecological sanitation for the developing world. After a year or so of stuttering development, we got in contact with Bjorn Vinneras and Annika Nordin at SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences). They were doing some hard research into sanitation via urea (a substance commonly used as fertilizer). Urea works by raising the PH level and thus killing of the pathogens. Later on, we collaborated with plastics expert Mikael Hedenqvist at the KTH (Royal Institute of Technology). With Anders and me doing the design and product development of the physical bag, and project manager Camilla Wirsen, we had formed a group that could tackle this problem...a beautiful combination of design, science and vision.
Now three years later, The Peepoo bag is currently being large-scale tested. One field test is already complete in Kibera, Kenya, with really positive response. Several large companies such as BASF, national development agencies, and The UNSG's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation are promoting it. At this point is time, it looks like the function, pricing and economic aspects are all falling into place.
I feel so privileged to be a part of something so challenging and beneficial as this project. My belief is that this will work.
Allan Chochinov is a partner of Core77, a New York-based design network serving a global community of designers and design enthusiasts, and Chair of the new MFA in Products of Design graduate program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Allan lectures around the world and at professional conferences including IDSA, AIGA and IxDA, has been a guest critic at various design schools in including Yale University, IIT, Carnegie Mellon, Ravensbourne, RMIT, University of Minnesota, Emily Carr, and RISD. He has moderated and led workshops and symposia at the Aspen Design Conference, the Rockefeller Center at Bellagio, Compost Modern, and Winterhouse, and is a frequent design competition juror. Prior to Core77, his work in product design focused on the medical, surgical, and diagnostic fields, as well as on consumer products and workplace systems. He has been named on numerous design and utility patents and has received awards from The Art Directors Club, I.D. Magazine, Communication Arts, and The One Club.