In certain parts of the world, the toilet is, thankfully, an easily accessible device, one that rarely is given thought until nature calls. To all who have access to them, toilets not only provide the obvious service, but also fit into a system through which waste is treated to assure sanitation. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most of the world, as 4.5 billion people live without a household toilet, and 2.4 billion of these individuals lack access to toilets whatsoever.
It is for this reason that World Toilet Day was established back in 2001. Declared November 19, this observance has continued to spread awareness and strive for a resolution to the world sanitation crisis, and its recognition burgeoned in 2013, when it was declared an official UN day. This issue is similarly integral to the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically SDG #6, which aims to ensure access to water and sanitation for all. A target of this goal is to ensure everyone has access to a safely managed household toilet by 2030.
The theme for World Toilet Day 2017 asks where it all goes. Understanding the logistics of wastewater and exploring this question and is crucial. With 60 percent of the human population (4.5 billion people) either having no toilet at home or one that doesn’t safely manage excreta, and a corresponding 862 million people practicing what is known as “open defecation”, 1.8 million people are in contact with an unimproved source of drinking water with no protection against contamination from feces.
It goes without saying that solid waste can be a carrier of viral diseases. In all, poor sanitary practices leads to about 1 million preventable deaths every year. According to the UN, to achieve SDG 6, human waste must be properly contained, transported, treated, and disposed or reused.
The standards community has responded to the global call to action for ending open defecation and the global sanitation crisis by developing guidelines for non-sewered sanitation systems, or toilets that aren’t connected to networked sewer systems. This came in response to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, which set the criteria for a toilet that:
- Removes pathogens from human waste and recovers valuable resources such as energy, clean water, and nutrients.
- Operates “off the grid” without connections to water, sewer, or electrical lines.
- Costs less than USD 0.05 per user per day.
- Promotes sustainable and financially profitable sanitation services and businesses that operate in poor urban and rural settings.
- Is a truly aspirational next‐generation product that everyone will want to use in developed as well as developing nations.
ISO’s international workshop agreement, IWA 24:2016 – Non-sewered sanitation systems – General safety and performance requirements for design and testing, offers recommendations for a nonflushable toilet that meets these stipulations, covering its design, installation, and use.
IWA 24:2016 details both the frontend (“toilet facility”) and the backend (“treatment facility”) of the toilets, in which the backend allows the waste to be treated in a safe manner.
You can learn more about IWA 24:2016 from our past post on the international workshop agreement.
Furthermore, ISO/PC 305, the technical committee on sustainable non-sewered sanitation systems, has developed an international standard to address product design and testing for non-sewered sanitation systems for prefabricated treatment units. Since international standards are strategic tools for minimizing waste and errors, increasing productivity, and facilitating free and global trade, the standard, ISO 30500, Non-sewered sanitation systems – Prefabricated integrated treatment units – General safety and performance requirements for design and testing, gives assurance to manufacturers of non-sewered sanitation systems, governments, regulators, and end users that the non-sewered facilities they use are safe, reliable and of good quality.
The scarcity of toilets makes up a significant portion of the sanitation crisis. In generally impoverished regions, this limits the amount of clean water available, serves as both a harbinger and conduit for disease, and puts women and girls in danger and even threatens their access to education. Spreading awareness of this problem, taking action, and standardizing the solution is integral for making the world a safer place to live.