SOIL and Re.Source Co-Author Paper on Household Sanitation

Every Wednesday I give tours to visitors who are interested in learning about SOIL, and every time I start to explain EkoLakay, SOIL’s household toilet business pilot, I’m flooded with questions: Why focus on private households instead of public toilets? Why use container-based toilets that require buckets of waste be collected every week? Do people like using dry (i.e., non-flushing) toilets? Can SOIL really make this service financially sustainable?

These are all great questions – which is why we’re so excited to share a newly published paper about SOIL’s household toilet program in the peer-reviewed journal Environment & Urbanization. The paper shares a wealth of data from SOIL’s initial pilot  of the program in 2011-2012, conducted in partnership with our friends and co-authors at Re.Source Sanitation, a Stanford University-based group of sanitation researchers.

The paper is packed with interesting findings about both SOIL’s public and household toilets in the Shada 2 community of Cap-Haitien. Here’s a brief sampling:

  • SOIL’s three public toilets served over 1,200 community members a day, with a user every 5 and a half minutes.
  • GraphBefore the household toilet pilot, open defecation and “flying toilets” (using a plastic bag, which is then thrown elsewhere) were common practices, particularly at night, when public toilets may not be operating, and using a latrine at a neighbor’s house may not be an option. Happily, SOIL’s household toilet service all but eliminated these practices in participating families, demonstrating the importance of private sanitation.
  • The average adult poop weighed in at 163 grams (0.35 pounds).
  • Because the amount of waste collected from household toilets was higher than anticipated, it appears that friends and relatives of pilot participants may have also benefited by having a safe place to go to the bathroom.
  • The pilot triggered a 4-fold increase in the safe management of baby poop.
  • The collection and transport cost averaged 96 cents per kilogram of poo at a scale of 135 households, though the authors noted that “as a pilot this service did not reflect cost-saving measures that SOIL subsequently identified and continues to implement, including lower-cost toilets and streamlined collection procedures.”
  • And my favorite: “There was also one reported instance of a toilet being stolen by a respondent’s former partner.” Yup – the couple broke up, and that jerk took the toilet with him.
Kory and Sebastien discussing buckets

Sebastien Tilmans and Kory Russel talk buckets in Shada 2

There’s plenty more to read, especially for you sanitation nerds out there, so check out the full article here, and our second paper from this research collaboration which is summarized on the SOIL blog here.

Many thanks to our co-authors Sebastien Tilmans, Kory Russel, Rachel Sklar, and Jennifer Davis, and to the foundations that contributed to making this research possible (the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, Oxfam GB, and the American Red Cross). We’re so grateful to have partners in academia who help us share our lessons learned, making it possible to scale this work through replication.

Finally, a huge “thank you” to all of our friends who have supported SOIL’s revolutionary sanitation work over the years. We’re so grateful to have your support as we continue to test and refine the EkoLakay household toilet service. If you want to keep up with the latest EkoLakay news, follow SOIL on Facebook and Twitter!

This paper is the first of two papers published in partnership with Re.Source Sanitation. Read more about the second publication here:

3 Replies to "SOIL and Re.Source Co-Author Paper on Household Sanitation"

  • Rex Cowan
    May 8, 2015 (5:39 pm)

    Great work. Keep it coming! :-)

  • Kwabena Donnelly
    May 11, 2015 (4:20 pm)

    Is there any odor associated with your toilets?

    • Erica Lloyd
      May 12, 2015 (11:48 am)

      Thanks for your question, Kwabena. When toilets are used and managed properly (e.g., using the provided cover material) there’s no odor.

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