Bringing the Toilets Home
Written by our friends at re.source – a start-up team based out of Stanford University, funded by a Grand Challenges Explorations Phase 1 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The re.source team is partnering with SOIL to help design an improved household EcoSan toilet and a social business model for providing household sanitation in urban slums. See other blog posts by the re.source team here.
We’re launching! We installed 25 toilets in Shada on October 30th, reaching a milestone we’ve been working toward for more than a year. It marks the culmination of many hours of design, prototyping, community meetings, surveying, training, waste collecting, and business model analysis. And it’s just a start. By the end of the month, we expect to install many more toilets for our 3-month pilot to stress-test our service, logistics, and pricing model before scaling up.
We installed 25 toilets in one single day. Actually, it took us half a day, but we spent the second half of the day double-checking each installation.
How?! It was a pretty intense process, but it went off without a hitch. This video on SOIL’s blog shows some of the excitement of the process.
We could install our toilets so fast because we pre-fabricated them, they’re portable, and they’re simple to set up. The physical installation is actually the easy part. What takes the most time and focus is training each household on proper use of the ecosan toilet, and reviewing the service contract so that everyone is on the same page. Subscribing to a toilet is an unusual idea for anyone, but the residents of Shada were excited about the concept- no up-front investment, low risk for them, the flexibility to stop the service or take it with them whenever they move. These features are critical in a neighborhood where residents move often, and can’t be sure they will still be in their house in a few months.
We spent the morning with the households, SOIL, and KOSS, a partnership of 9 CBO’s in Shada, to explain the use of the toilet, provide posters and visuals, and go over the service contract.
Then each household picked up their toilet, including their first bucket of cover material. We logged all the numbers of buckets and toilets going out, integrating the household toilets into our re.source tracking system.
And then, all our customers had to do was take their brand new toilet home.
We spent the afternoon visiting each household with the collection team and KOSS, making sure the toilets are well set up, the households meet the collectors, and that everyone agrees with the collection schedule.
This is just the beginning. There will be several more days like this in November, as we multiply the number of toilets in Shada. We will spend the next several months evaluating and refining our system. KOSS will provide an important quality-checking service in this initial period, as they make sure we do a good job in their community. As time goes on, we will be collaborating with KOSS to foster micro-enterprises around waste collection within Shada and beyond.