Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Peepoo Bags

Watch this video on YouTube to see what a Peepoo bag is and have a look at the Peepoople website. There’s also a paper by the inventors of the Peepoo bag which was published earlier this year in Water Science and Technology: Peepoo bag: self-sanitising single use biodegradable toilet [this link takes you to the paper’s abstract − well worth a read].

Now, would you recommend the widespread use of Peepoo bags in urban slums? Before you answer, read this excerpt from the executive summary of Impact Assessment Report on the Peepoo Bag, Silanga Village, Kibera, Nairobi − Kenya by Thomas H. M. Ondieki and Maurice Mbegera of Jean Africa Consultants in Nairobi (this study was partially funded by GTZ):

At least 90% of the users of the Peepoo bag strongly recommended it as the absolute sanitation solution within Kibera and the same percentage also felt that the Peepoo bag is safe and clean to handle. More than 80% of the respondents were of the opinion that the Peepoo bag be sold for less than KES 5 (USD 0.0625) to make it affordable to the majority of the slum dwellers.
There was a significant need for Peepoo bag usage in Silanga Village because more than 50% of the respondents admitted that they throw their waste using the flying toilet approach. On the distribution of the Peepoo bag, the majority of the respondents were of the opinion that group leaders, community based organizers, church leaders, youth and village elders be used in coordinating the distribution process.
The size of the Peepoo bag elicited concern among the respondents. Over 60% suggested a bigger bag to fit both urine and faeces at the same time. The use of the Peepoo bag would save valued time that is otherwise spent queuing to access toilet facilities. It was noted that the fertilizer benefit seemed most valuable for the majority of respondents because of the implied financial benefits that such a venture would bring to the community.

All good stuff − well, good business: there are about a million people in Kibera slum, and if they all used one Peepoo bag a day at a cost of USD 0.0625,* that’s USD 62,500 per day or close to USD 23 million per year!

How many SPARC-style community-managed sanitation blocks (see blog of 28 January 2008), I wonder, could be built in Kibera for this? Well, a two-storey sanitation block costs KES 1.7m−2m (USD 23,000−27,000) and a single-storey one KES 1.2m−1.4m (USD 16,000−19,000) − information kindly provided by Josiah Omotto of the Umande Trust (based in Kibera) by email yesterday. You can do the math yourself and so figure out which solution you’d choose.

*Actually Peepoo bags cost EUR 0.04 (info. by email from Ms Camilla Wirseen, the project manager @, on 15 August). At current exchange rates this is equivalent to USD 0.057 or KES 4.51 − so we’re talking about USD 20.8m (EUR 14.6m), not the USD 23m above. Even so, a lot of money in any currency!

PS: Some people get a bit mystified by currency abbreviations. Every currency has a unique 3-letter code (KES = Kenyan shilling) − details at