One of the biggest culprits of disease and death in slum areas around the world is the lack of sanitary toilets. There are several places in Uganda’s capital Kampala where, on average, 1000 people have to share the same toilet and where urine and excrement are dumped directly onto the streets or into open sewers. Appalled at these conditions, Design without Borders (DwB) decided to intervene and came up with a holistic solution to the problem. Sarah Kell and her DwB team designed a unisex Ecological Urinal that collects urine, stores it in a sanitary way, and turns it into high quality fertilizer. They partnered with local plastics producer Crestanks and Sustainable Sanitation Design (SuSan Design) to produce their design, which has been selected as a finalist for the 2013 Index: Award.

In 2008, DwB began discussions with organizations and NGOs in Uganda trying to find a solution to the enormous sanitary issues in the slums. These talks led to a collaboration with Crestanks. A participatory design process with the local community led to the realization that just addressing the sanitary issue wasn’t enough and that a more holistic approach was needed. And so the team of collaborators came up with a way to build a value chain around the waste product – urine – by collecting it, storing it and selling it as fertilizer.

The Ecological Urinal is an adaptable funnel that connects to locally available jerrycans. It collects and stores urine, which can be refined into a high quality fertilizer using a simple process. The Unisex Urinal costs only $3, making it affordable for residents of slums. It is being developed in a small scale and is currently being tested among women in Nairobi by SuSan Design. The Ecological Urinal has been nominated for the Index 2013 Awards.

+ Design Without Borders

+ Index: Award

Lead photo by Sustainable Sanitation Design