Composting Toilet Group

“In 2010, an estimated 2.5 billion people were still without improved sanitation. 15% of the world population still practices open defecation, defined as defecation in fields, forests, bushes, or other open spaces. This represents 1.1 billion people. The majority of those practicing open defecation (949 million) live in rural areas, with 17% living in Latin America and the Caribbean. Sanitation issues can be difficult to discuss due to social taboos. “

Problem Statement: Provide suitable solution to the sanitation problem while catering to the available resources and the needs of the people of Ecuador.

Cal Poly Experimental Farm: As an example for developing countries we want to provide a alternative sewage system that is beneficial to the environment and appropriate for the people needs.

Ecuador: We hope to work along with Jaime and her team in Ecuador to help solve sanitation problems in their community.

We intend to design a composting toilet suitable to the local parameters of Ecuador and test it at the Cal Poly student experimental farm.

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Group Members:
Aydee Melgar :
Chad Morabito :
Joel Cortes:

People and area we are addressing:
We are addressing the people in peri-urban/rural communities of Ecuador that do not have sanitation available to them.
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Looks good
Out of sight out of mind
Reduce smell
No water
Minimal contact with poop

We are referencing the interviews made in the class last quarter and we are also communicating with Jaime in order to better understand the community and nonprofit we are working along with. See last quarter interviews pasted below:

Phone Interview with Sebastien Tilmans of SOIL

What do you use alongside waste in the compost? Where do you implement the compost after the full process?
We use food and non-food crops. In one instance, it was used to fertilize a soccer field…Community gardens are another area where food crops are grown using the compost. The composting procedures are led by SOIL, they are very robust so you can trust that the process has killed off the pathogens. The brewing company is using this compost in their shops because that’s not something that’s going to be eaten raw, it’s going to be processed.

When people subscribe to a toilet, how long do they get to have the toilet for?
It’s a monthly subscription service. It’s open to say whether that’s the right way to do it. The locals have trouble saving, so you want to break up collection days as much as possible. In Haiti when people pay rent they pay once or twice a year. So they’re saving for the whole year to get that lump sum in January. Would they rather be paying for things? Because they do have the ability to save. It’s tough creating a service for people at the bottom. You want to make it cheap and accessible, but there’s the chicken egg problem, where without revenue it can never grow or be sustainable. So it’s a compromise you have to make…where you have to set a price to have the service work. You have to establish a relatively high gross margin, since your overhead is so high, to make the whole thing even work. So the people who need the service the most don’t necessarily have it, but starting somewhere can allow for it to get to those who need it the most by marginalizing. Market-based solutions will not reach the poorest of the poor, as a given. The government would have to get involved. You have to achieve access for everyone, but that’s simply a difficult thing to do.

Have you come across any cross-cultural issues in regards to the people in Haiti?
Not by the design of the toilet, but miscommunication, or misunderstandings. Culturally, these sorts of situations are going to inevitably happen. As long as you apologize and show that you are trying, that goes a long way. The actual design of the toilet didn’t have many issues because we asked users, interviewed Haitians what an ideal home and bathroom would be for them. Even the first prototypes were designed with them in mind. 10 versions later is the ‘real deal’, now in 130 households. The big questions are, ‘are they wipers or washers’…but that’s just the beginning. Seat height, color of the toilet, many factors impact people’s interest. The western style toilet is taking over the world. It’s what movie stars and rich people have, so it’s idealized. It’s not so complicated because of this…it’s easy enough to have the product adopted, but to get people excited about the toilet, that’s different. You could make a culturally sensitive toilet, but they may not be as excited about it as the pedestal. Toilets are not the highest priority on their list, even in these very rural countries. But privacy is the motivator, as it is impossible to have in these very urban areas. Making it a status symbol, because it makes people feel wealthy and comfortable, that is the appeal. Also, the first prototypes were made in CA, but the ones we deployed were almost completely bought and made from materials in Haiti.

Are there any plans for more long-term solutions? Could compost toilets be long-term? Is it a sort of stepping stone to a sanitation infrastructure like we have here in the US?
In an excerpt in Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People mattered by E.F. Schumacher, he mentioned how intermediate technology (as opposed to non-modern and modern technology) is the solution for developing countries. By definition, these compost toilets would be considered an intermediate technology. The toilets is a means to an end. What’s more important is the background or the context of the situation. On our toilets, the fact that it’s portable makes it better because it’s a more immediate solution, although not necessarily a long term one. At some point we’ll have to do something that is not removable. Many different models, including ours is waterless which is a great benefit.
Many people are squatting on unincorporated land, so they see actually putting in plumbing as legitimizing their illegal staying. Because this community(Shada) is illegal, nothing can be done about cholera. This is a solution where the government cannot object. They have said they’re going to bulldoze Shada for the past fifteen years, still haven’t done it.

Is there any way we could personally get involved with the work that resource sanitation is doing in Haiti?
Nothing at the moment.

Lexi Interview :

  • Horticulture & crop science major
  • Student farm director
  • Independent project:
    • Design experimental farm site
      • Landscape plan
      • 2 acres (mostly flat)
      • Only a porta-potty at the site
    • Goal is to communicate with other groups
  • Sub project: Make pitch about our compost toilet to Lexi
    • Make signs for how to use the toilet / how it helps the environment
  • Collaborate with Soil Science and Construction Management major
  • Quail Springs: __lindsay@quailsprings.org__
    • 2 models for compost toilet
  • Conclusion: We have decided to work with Lexi in developing the experimental farm unit. It may not be our main focus for the class however we think it would be a good project to work on nonetheless. Her main focus is to communicate with other people in different fields to see what their input on the how the experimental farm land should be developed. Through talking to her, we have decided to contact Lindasy at Quail Springs and ask her what she thinks about the compost toilets on her site.

Jamie Cignetti Interview:
Where does the Earth Auger get its funding?
What are you short term goals?
We actually have material goals.. within 5 years to distribute 500 toilets a month, and 1 mil toilets a year within 10 years. But philosophically, it’s making a difference in the world…not getting rich, but making enough money to get paid a salary, become for-profit not non-profit, reach towards the larger context of providing sanitation to areas that cannot access it.

Where are you implementing this?
We’ve been focusing on areas that lack a central system, so rural areas primarily. We mainly target is developing countries, but we have been working with ecuador to develop projects in kenya, south africa, nepal, etc. Quite a few opportunities opening up around the world.
Identifying target areas would be areas that big NGOs target. US just came out with 13 or so countries target in terms of need. We target the places with the most need, but honestly we have to be open to opportunities anywhere, even in the US where there a lot of people who want to change their sanitation situation. Not closed to any opportunities.

We are formally associated with the Gates Foundation. We are a sub-organization given a grant through the toilet competition. We’ve been funded for two rounds, 11-12 and 2013-15.

What are your long term goals?
What have been your largest stumbling blocks (design/implementation)-wise?
Well people around the world want flush toilets like the US. They think that is showing that they’re modern and sophisticated. So places will have this, but the waste won’t go anywhere. So opening them up to the other system options. Another challenge is getting people away from open defacation. Some other challenges are financing. NGO financing, bias towards water-flush systems as well as education why sanitation is important. Group adoption of improved technology. For instance if your neighbor doesn’t adopt your technology and the problem remains, why invest? Creating demand for improved sanitation is the main concern.

Aaron: People in developing countries enjoy western-style toilets, so if we got people excited here about composting toilets, would that carry over?
Scandinaivan counties, you could research. Adding new toilets to existing wastewater structures is a huge cost. So they will subsidize for people who do not add on to this. I have a lot of insurance in Afganistan, and we tried to implement it there, but they wanted flush toliets. That’s what we’ve been trying to do…make our product feel advanced. Make it feel like it’s not a pit toilet. We actually have designed a way for it to “flush” with a foot pedal and etc, to give the feeling that you are operating it that way..things disappear!

How much do these toilets cost?
Our idea is to sell them in bulk. 150 dollars each. If you were to buy them in the US, the extra money goes towards supporting selling them. We are looking at microfinance solutions, or have the unit subsidized by the government so it could be affordable for the people.You have to realize that this whole industry is exploding. Today I got a big call from Vinka, the other day another…so this has been estimated to a trillion-dollar industry. So we are shocked by the opportunities coming in day to day.

So are these toliets as something you see being shipped elsewhere?
The idea is that folks could manufacture them in their home region, so ultimately we’d like to establish a local labor force. Right now we’re manufacturing in China, but we do hope to establish it in other places. But, it requires demand. We report through the gates grant, which is how we’ve been able to do what we’ve done so far. Every so we have to sell a lot of toilets to make this work.

So with your organization, how can we get involved?
We actually weren’t sure which class you were, but we’re a startup, so there’s projects across the company that you could get involved in. More on the business side than the technical side. I’d really like to stay in touch. Part of our main focus now is developing our marketing materials, helping us come up with our collateral, and an instruction manual for the toilet, as well as on the technical side, increasing the heat in the system, working on making a parabolic solar trough.

We are also referencing the design jaime provided us along with other composting toilets in order to design a toilet that is suitable for the people of Ecuador.

Design Matrix:

Toilet Design Matrix (3).xlsx

CURRENTLY: We are working on designing our first toilet. We hope to start with a simple bucket model but include an air tube to solve condensation problems a simple bucket toilet might have.

!!!!!!!!!!DESIGN PICTURES TO COME SOON!!!!!!!!!!!

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This is our first prototype. We made a simple bucket composting toilet with an aeration pipe. We are still working on making the rotating bottom half of our toilet.



2nd Presentation

Pros to having a rotating drum to receive the poop:
-adds oxygen
-ensures mixing to help the breakdown of the material
– adds and element of separation from the waste (out of mind out of sight)
-speeds up composting process

Interview with student from the experimental farm:
Student: The university didn’t like the idea of having a composting toilet because of the liability.
Joel: What about the toilet you have on the farm now?
Student:It’s a portable toilet. It’s working terribly, its gross, it’s way down there at the bottom of the hill. Its inconvient, it smells weird, we don’t really like it. We have to pay for it. It is wasteful. It’s taking the waste and putting it somewhere else. If we had a composting toilet we would take care of that waste onsite. Which is what we want to do.
Joel: If you would have one what would you expect from it?
Student: It would need to do what it needs to do onsite.
The most we expect is some productive output because what else would you do. Sanitary, conveniently located and does everything on site. Not adding things to it to make sure it’s composting. Automating it in some way to make sure there would be minimal contact because people don’t like working with shit.
Joel: Would you mind having to dump the composting toilet if you had one?
Student: No, we are pretty hearty people, we understand what it means to have a composting toilet, but if the technology exists to make it as no hassle as possible then that is ideal but if it costs a lot of money it is not worth it.


Final Presentation.pdf

Conclusion Statement:

We are very happy with our final design concept and the final project, though it is still a prototype. We will test it and discover potential improvements. The basic concept is to rotate the storage device to turn the human waste with higher nitrogenous waste. The drum will be filled about a third full with green wastes (grasses, leaves, other yard waste) prior to use which will act as a sponge in the storage device as well as aid in the thermophilic processes of composting. Leaves, straw, sawdust, etc… will be added after each use.
The rotation will be provided by the same mechanism as a rear bike wheel, where the drum takes the place of the wheel (2 toilets can be crated from 1 bicycle). The largest, and first improvement we see is to replace the 5-gallon bucket storage drum with a 55-gallon steel drum. This will add to the cost, but will provide many benefits: easier mounting of “hub/ cog component,” more stability from welding instead of gluing, and increased storage to add to the time-process of composting.

There are many composting-style toilets available, from commercial products to home DIY projects that serve a vast range of needs- we enjoyed, however, coming up with our own unique design, working within the parameters of peri-urban and rural Ecuador. As a result, the toilet is widely accessible and applicable in many areas and circumstances.

Good job on website. I would like to see some conclusion statement. Also, I would like it if your final presentation was open to the public. As it is, I need to ask permission to see this document. If you don’t want people to be able to edit it (and it is vulnerable to editing), then you could always just print the final presentation to a .pdf file and then load it onto the website for people to see. – Pete