• Switzerland's news in English

Swiss boffins craft new toilet for world's poorest

Malcolm Curtis · 15 Aug 2012, 10:48

Published: 15 Aug 2012 10:48 GMT+02:00

The “diversion” toilet needs no sewer and no outside energy source and is cheap to operate.

It was developed by a team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) and the Austrian design firm EOSS.

The team beat out submissions from 21 other universities and research facilities to win the “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” set by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The foundation, established by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, sought designs for toilets that could be part of a recycling system for waste and that would cost no more than five cents per day and per person.

An estimated 2.6 billion people — more than a third of the world’s population — lack access to a decent toilet, a situation that adds to disease and unhealthy living conditions.

The Swiss design team was led by process engineer Tove Larsen, who explained that the award-winning model is a “modern squatting toilet”.

It allows for the separation of urine and has an ingenious seal against odours while using just 1 to 1.5 litres of water for each use.

“This is absolutely decisive for cleaning the toilet, hand washing and the anal hygiene with water practised by Muslims and Hindus,” Larsen said in a news release.
The toilet needs no connection to a water supply.

Every time a user operates a foot pedal, water flows into a small water reservoir and used water is pumped upwards behind the toilet.

The used water is cleansed by means of a membrane filter, with germs removed through electrolysis from a solar powered electrode.

The Swiss-Austrian team’s design was honoured at an award ceremony in Seattle on Tuesday with a $40,000 prize.

The next challenge is to build and test prototype toilets for use in the real world.

Larsen said the team has already developed a business model for use of the toilet as part of a “total sanitation system” that can be managed by local people.

The toilets are designed to be modular, with containers holding faeces capable of being transported hygienically to treatment plants.

The plants in turn can turn the waste into fertilizer and biogas under the model proposed.

Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
 Federer to miss Rio, rest of season with injury
Federer is recovering from injury. Photo: AFP

Roger Federer will miss the remainder of the season, including next month's Olympic Games in Rio.

Take care around fireworks, Swiss told
Fireworks injure hundreds every year. Photo: myswitzerland.com

Fireworks caused 250 accidents last year in Switzerland – half of them on August 1st.

Missing man found dead in Obwalden forest
The man's body was found close to the wreck of his car. Photo: Obwalden police

A man reported missing in early July has been found dead close to the wreck of his car in central Switzerland.

Confirmed cases of Zika virus soar in Switzerland
The virus is on the march in Switzerland too. Photo: AFP

Switzerland has registered 28 cases of the birth-defect causing Zika virus since the start of the year.

Flooding leads to chaos in central Switzerland
The storm left a trail of devastation in Pfäffikon. Photo: Schwyz cantonal police

The fire brigade in the canton of Schwyz had a busy night dealing with flooding emergencies.

  Solar plane completes epic round-the-world trip
The journey ended in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse 2 has landed in the UAE, completing its epic round-the-world journey.

Switzerland mulls alarm text message service
A mobile text warning system could be introduced: Photo: Katwarn.de

A text message alarm system could be used to warn people in the event of a terror attack.

Swiss solar plane nears end of epic trip
Solar Impulse is close to its goal. Photo: Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse 2 is approaching the end of its epic bid to become the first sun-powered plane to circle the globe without fuel.

Man arrested in forest murder case
A walker found the woman's body in the forest. File photo: Patrick Nouhailler

Police arrest an illegal immigrant over the killing of a woman in the canton of Bern last week.

Terror fears trigger Swiss run on guns
More people want to own a gun. Photo: kecko.jpg

Applications for gun licences soar in Switzerland amid growing insecurity.

Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Photo: Grand Tours Project
Why you should get on your bike in Switzerland
Photo: The Local
Swiss village tells landlords: don’t rent homes to refugees
Photo: Rolf Krahl/Christophe G
Survey: world willing to pay more for ‘Swissness’
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: The Local
Chaos in Como after Swiss send back refugees
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: AFP/The Local
Nine top celebrity hotspots in Switzerland
Photo: Graubunden police
World-class Swiss climber Norbert Joos dies on ‘home mountain’
Photo: Kathleen Waters
Italian ‘ignored’ by Swiss schools in language wars
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Photo: Whitepod
The quirkiest places to stay in Switzerland
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Migrant busted trying to sneak into Switzerland in a suitcase
Photo: Jonathan Kos-Read
Basel suffers wettest six months for 150 years
Photo: Georges Gobet/AFP
Why Swiss science could suffer badly from Brexit fallout
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Photo: Robert Valencia
Swiss couple in Nicaragua told to give back adopted daughter
Photo: Zurich cantonal police
Police hunt prisoner on the run in Zurich murder case
Photo: Christoph G
Switzerland sets out law on expelling foreign criminals
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: Bernacqua
Drone shocks nudists at Swiss waterpark
Photo: Basel Justice and Security Dept
New signs lay down law and order for Basel prostitutes
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Photo: Daniel Orth
Muslim school kids denied passport for refusing swimming lessons
Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP
Swiss-EU talks ‘must’ resume this summer, says President
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
File photo: Kochtopf
Anger as Swiss council plans non-pork school lunches
File photo: Jen/Flickr
Geneva could get 'café fellatio' by end of year
How Switzerland's scenery inspired some of the world's greatest authors
jobs available