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A personal portable toilet to prevent contact with foreign bodily fluids

The Ebola virus is transmitted through direct contact with infected bodily fluids, the most infectious being blood, faeces and vomit. 2.9 million Liberians have no latrine or share unsanitery latrines. Our idea aims to provide the population in crisis situations/areas with their personal portable toilet and deploy a waste management system.

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
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Attachments (2)

My personal toilet revised Oct. 30.pdf

Please see the evolution of the toilet seat and our concepts for the waste management

My personal toilet prototype.pdf

Please see our first prototype. More iterations needed ;)

46 comments

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Photo of Rebecca Buechel
Team

Hi Vanessa & Cédric, Have you developed the personal portable toilet more? Some of us have been continuing to design/brainstorm & get try to get things gowing in West Africa on James Gien Varney-Wong's Kerika Ebola Community Action Room, if you'd like to join in the discussion! Kind regards, me

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
Team

Hello Rebecca,
We are meeting this WE to work on it :)
Thanks for highlighting the discussion, we'll make sure to check it out.
We've also sent the project directly to USAID, we're eager to hear from them!

Photo of wind jiang
Team

There is a sanitary portable toilet out there in the market. It does not require pick and wrap the waste by hands. How it works? check here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUFXDSJ-XTY

Photo of Rebecca Buechel
Team

interesting share ! is it solar operated ?

Photo of wind jiang
Team

Yes, it has solar option.

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
Team

Thank you wind jiang! What I love about the solution you shared is that it indeed limits handling of the possibly contaminated waste.

I'm a bit worried that this level of sophistication would significantly increase cost. What's your perspective?

Photo of Marjorie Owner
Team

this metal toilet would be expensive and does not solve body contact issue. Looks made for camping, but some of the ideas could be incorporated less expensively into your design Vanessa. Seems to me the bag must come over the seat if ever more than a one person use, and maybe your design could use a light metal frame - If you can buy a sports chair at walmart for $7.00, we should be able to make a more sturdy reusable design that is still fully covered. So think of this chair with a hole in the seat and a large plastic bag wrap over all, one person use, or a detachable bag in the hole that can pull down through without touching (such as was demonstrated in the video) http://goo.gl/a2eY02 or http://goo.gl/gXFddK with a specially made plastic bag that covers and goes in the hole and is lifted off and tied up when necessary.

Your cardboard design is wonderful and would make sense in some cases, but it may be cheaper/easier to haul a metal/wire frame and plastic bags then a stack of cardboard chairs.

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
Team

Hello Marj,

Thanks for your comments!

We are using the concept of the double bag, in this case the internal bag would indeed fall inside the outer bag with the weight of the waste. So the user only manipulates the outer bag. We are still working on how we are attaching the bags to the unit so as to increase safety (as you suggest) and at the same time minimise the use of plastic.

Regarding the light metal frame, how would you consider the end of life of the product?

Thanks!

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Hi Vanessa and team! Thanks so much for joining the conversation with your amazing insights, expertise and passion. Congratulations on making our highlights list, we were really impressed by the potential your idea has to help rapidly equip care communities in the fight against Ebola and we hope that it will inspire the community to contribute more to the cause. Thank you!

Photo of Howard Boyle
Team

The projections are for millions of cases by the end of the year. If the average person has 3 movements per day..? How will will the burning of these units affect the environment..?

Photo of Rebecca Buechel
Team

WHO's recommendations for incineration of waste: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/medicalwaste/en/smincinerators3.pdf Need APC (air pollution control)
&
burning waste to create electricity: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/does-burning-garbage-to-produce-energy-make-sense/

Photo of Jonathan Watson
Team

Perhaps...sometimes the needs of the millions who could be infected outweigh the needs of the environment in the short term. At least until this epidemic is resolved and a more long term sustainable solution (vaccines) is implemented.

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
Team

Thanks Rebecca, we'll look into those, and how we can further minimize environmental impact without compromising on safety.

Photo of Cédric Vanhoeck
Team

It's completely true. The environmental impact of this product needs to be taken into account, especially due to the huge production rate.

Vanessa and I tried to make an as environmental-friendly as possible product, by for example calculating the eco-costs of the product, using the LCA Data of Idemat, and by looking for different end-of-life situations.
But firstly we need to watch out, to not forget the original purpose of this product: diminishing the chance of ebola contamination.
In other words, the first purpose of this product is medical; the danger of contamination needs to be taken seriously.
On top of that, don't forget that in the specific area where the product should be/will be implemented, most of the waste is burned and managed in a similar way.

In this particular EBOLA- case, in order to act rapidly and due to the contamination problem, a more sustainable version, including for example composting, is in our opinion not possible.

Photo of Jonathan Watson
Team

India is grappling with the same problem of public defecation. So if this were to look at a larger market then the costs could be brought down per unit.

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?sid=aErNiP_V4RLc&pid=newsarchive

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
Team

Hello Jonathan, we also think that there are many possible applications for the concept. One thing we'd like to explore is the possibility to manufacture locally as the product is quite simple. This could be a key element of empowerment and sustainability.

Photo of Jonathan Watson
Team

hmmm... good idea. If you can provide simple plans to build the 'folding' equipment with scrap metal, and encourage the reuse of recycled cardboard/sheet metals. It could be the basis of an entire industry. The local manufacturing shops could take the same skills and tools and apply it to other similar 'craft' solution. Inexpensive temporary furniture for example.

Photo of Rebecca Buechel
Team

looks very secure & easy to carry to throw away--no plastic is so ecological. Is it "one-size-fits-all" ? well done. looks helpful

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
Team

Thank you Rebecca! We'll keep improving it :)

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
Team

Hello!
We've posted a few pictures of the prototype. More iterations are needed! :)
Please let us know your thoughts!

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
Team

Hi Rebecca,

Thanks for all the sharing!

We are indeed focussing on rapid and cost effective intervention for crisis situations. We also hope that this could be the beginning for a longer term solution. But that might look different from what we are building at the moment. If successful, it'd be interesting to see users behaviours in real setting and adapt/iterate or redirect the project from there...

For now, our next step is to prototype the concept and test it. That will probably already trigger a few improvements ;)

Photo of Rebecca Buechel
Team

Hello Vanessa, Cédric, I thought you might like this specialist's discussion for ideas/contacts (if you haven't seen it already). http://forum.susana.org/forum/categories/26-health-hygiene-and-disability-issues/10359-sanitation-interventions-during-ebola-epidemic

Photo of Rebecca Buechel
Team

Hi Vanessa & Cédric,

Your new proposal is really complete, thorough, reassuring. I think burning the cardboard seat/carrier each time is more secure against infection.

In passing, do you think this product

https://openideo.com/challenge/fighting-ebola/ideas/nordic-model-for-forest-toilet

would work in more "fixed" settings (i.e. places without the need for portability of the support) or as a first step, while projects wait further development ?

Photo of Ariel Martín Pérez
Team

Hello ! First of all, I find your idea is very good.

A while ago I theorized a similar project, aimed at creating a network of dry toilets in urban areas: http://papirofilia.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/a-propos-des-toilettes-seches-urbaines/

However, in my project, human waste is treated in a biodigestor and generates energy, instead of consuming it. Biological decomposition can destroy virus and bacteria contained in faeces. What do you think of this other possibility?

Photo of Rebecca Buechel
Team

looks really complete & sophisticated ☼ I'll read thru carefully asap~ can you send to the other rural toilet ideas on the platform ? Synergy is gaining momentum on this if you have time to read through the comments :

https://openideo.com/challenge/fighting-ebola/ideas/porta-loo-like-toiletry-system

https://openideo.com/challenge/fighting-ebola/ideas/minimalist-urine-diverting-dry-toilets-to-control-fecal-transmission-of-ebola

and at least one other I can't find just at this moment

Photo of Ariel Martín Pérez
Team

Cool, I will do that right now. Thanks.

Photo of Chris Canaday
Team

Ariel, thanks for the comment. I think it is key for whatever we propose to be simple, inexpensive and easy to implement. Please have a look at the Minimalist UDDT
https://openideo.com/challenge/fighting-ebola/ideas/minimalist-urine-diverting-dry-toilets-to-control-fecal-transmission-of-ebola
Have you prototyped the design on your blog?

Photo of Ariel Martín Pérez
Team

Hello Chris. No, I haven't prototyped the design, because I don't have the cultures necessary to prepare the boxes I wanted to make. But the rest of the elements (repurposed chair with a hole, diverting funnel for urine connected to plastic bottle, and another box for solid waste) I'm sure can be found out there in the wild. I've seen (and used) dry toilets so I know that for some people (seniors, when you're sick, etc) it's hard to defecate in a squat position, so a chair frame to rest your buttocks can be convenient and easy to use.

Photo of Cédric Vanhoeck
Team

Hi Ariel,
It's completely true what you are telling. It's nice to hear that so many people are trying to find more efficient solutions for our waste management!

The original project, on which this product is based, had the same purpose you are explaining.
Fluid and solid waste were on top of that divided so that they could be treated in two different ways: (1) electrolyze of urine to create electricity and (2) composting the solid waste to generate biogas and created fertiliser.
An other option is also to dry out the fertiliser completely and to get bricks or bio-coals, which could be used for cooking or could be burned afterwards in a generator (electricity).
Those techniques do unfortunately require technological knowledge and equipment which is extremely expensive (especially in the case of the electrolyze).
The area touched by Ebola is most of the times not equipped to be able to execute this process in an efficient and most important safe way.

First we need to design solutions to tackle a disease. Afterwards the focus can be changed towards design for environment/ecology.
Therefore we focused first on the creation of a cheap, safe and rapidly implementable product; giving a fast response on this global threat.

Thanks for your comment. It's great to have some discussions, it's really helpful.

Photo of Rebecca Buechel
Team

Hi all, I see value of separating urine & feces, but in the case of ebola & the associated prevalence of diarrhea, the feces "zone" will involve much liquid...
just sayin', in case that comes into play...also the units would be used for vomit in the case of ebola, until the person was admitted to a hospital with different facilities.

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
Team

Hi everyone! We've uploaded a revised pdf with more details around the toilet seat proposals and some ideas for the waste management. Looking forward to your comments!

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Hi Vanessa and team! Thanks so much for joining the conversation. Congratulations on being today's featured idea! We're excited to see this idea grow through the community's feedback and insights. We'd love to see you take this further by prototyping some of the elements of this idea and posting them on the platform. Here's a guide if you need some starters - http://ideo.pn/pr0t0type. Good luck!

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
Team

Rebecca, Chris and Craig have shared some very interesting perspectives. I'll have a chance to sit together this WE with Cedric, so we can evolve the proposal. Thanks!

Photo of Rebecca Buechel
Team

Hi Vanessa & Cedric, How's the proposal coming ? A friend and I kept thinking "giant starbucks cups" (made of recycled paper, therefore "burnable", but waterproof for diarrhea etc) folded (with origami technique?) to keep flat in backpack, but to be incinerated immediately after using (at least during ebola outbreak periods)

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
Team

Hi Rebecca, we're fine-tuning it. We're with you on the folding, recycled paper thinking. We'll post asap (Cedric is working on the sketches as we speak).

Photo of lameck dambuleni
Team

Cant access the attached file, anything on the portable toilet parameters?

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
Team

Hello Lameck,

We have indeed established a list of design requirements and open questions regarding the portable toilet parameters.

I've asked the IDEO people for help regarding the attachment as you are the second person having difficulties to access it...

Thanks for your interest in our concept!

Photo of Rebecca Buechel
Team

dear Vanessa, after talking it over with a friend, we were wondering if a system where the waste was "immediately" burned wouldn't be better by avoiding transport (like an oven???); also, to avoid burning plastic, might think of large foldable paper several-liter coffee cup recipients---recycled, of course---as they're both burnable and waterproof. to fulfill Chris's ecological aspirations, the ashes could be composted?

Photo of Chris Canaday
Team

I do not fully understand this concept, but it seems potentially similar to
http://www.peepoople.com/peepoo/start-thinking-peepoo/
... which in my mind is not so different from simple plastic bags for single uses ... that then get tied shut. The idea is that these be biodegradeable bags, although "biodegradeable" bags apparently only do so under very specific conditions, and they create dependance on the providers of these bags, unlike the Minimalist UDDT which I propose (as it depends on rescuing a few bits of plastic from the garbage ... and is so inexpensive that each could be for individual use). The bags can also be placed on a cardboard box to facilitate use. I could not find the attachment. Please guide me in that direction. I also think it is unlikely people would want to carry their excrement around with them, plus this would constitute a new health risk, with these potetially spilling or failing, unlike the minimalist system, in which sacks can be buried.

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
Team

Hello Chris,

Thanks for the link, it's great! We'll look at this in detail this WE with my partner.

I've asked the IDEO people for help regarding the attachment as you are the second person having difficulties to access it.

Photo of Rebecca Buechel
Team

this seems to be a very beautiful, caring solution to a difficult problem; can someone do a prototype to see the practicalities of it ? We'd ALL need to try it to see if it's really do-able!

since want to protect from infected persons, people showing a fever would need to use it while (in theory) waiting for test results--carrying the portable toilet would also serve as a sign that they MAY have ebola (i.e. that they have a fever)

Get in contact with those on the practical end (MSN, Sierra Leone & Liberian Health Agencies + ...) to get a prototype tried out ?

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
Team

Hi Rebecca,
Thank you!
Yes we need to prototype!
Regarding your second comment, the idea is for everyone to carry the portable toilet so that they don't use shared toilets or leave their waste in the open. So carrying a toilet would not be a sign of being sick but a sign of wanting to stay well and being respectful of others. However you are right that we need to address stigma associated with carrying your toilet and make sure it is perceived as a good thing by the various individuals and cultural groups.
And yes, we definitely need to involve those on the practical end!
Thanks for your comments, I really appreciate!

Photo of Rebecca Buechel
Team

if it's a "designer"-portable toilet publicly endorsed by artists/celebrities, should have no trouble with stigma; I'm sure if you can converse with locals, you'll get an idea of any cultural taboos you might run up against ?

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
Team

Thank you Rebecca, I think so too.

Photo of Craig Provost
Team

awesome idea ….wondering if it could be prototyped with existing low cost house hold items ? Seems being leak and spill proof would be primary with blocking bad smells possibly being secondary but sell important ( to avoid social stigma). Could something like a small low cost plastic flip top garbage bin, plus back pack straps, plus wipe/wipe dispenser/ plus proper sized bag inserts do the trick. Maybe larger sized zip locks could be used so that each time waste is individually sealed and then tossed into another bag liner of the container ( double containment and this could help with smell)

Do you also imagine this would be used for uriniation or only #2 situations?
Anyhow amazing concept

Photo of Vanessa Counaert
Team

Hi Craig, a DIY kit!

What I like about your idea is that it empowers the local population, and reduces dependance. 1,7 million Liberians currently defecate in the open and I'm wondering how we can motivate them to use the personal portable toilet. Would it motivate or deter them if they have to build the unit?

From my understanding urine has a lower risk of contamination but still represents a risk. So we're building the concept including it from a technical perspective. We need to see if it hinders compliance and see if we should compromise. I'll need further guidance on the risk/benefit of leaving it out. To be continued...

Thanks for your support and contribution!