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Vermifiltration composting toilets: The way to clean, green sanitation

Children under the age of five are more susceptible to diarrheal diseases than adults due to their delicate and still-developing immune systems.

Vermifiltration composting toilets: The way to clean, green sanitation


Diarrheal disease is the third leading cause of childhood mortality worldwide, responsible for 710,000 childhood deaths each year. It is also a major contributor to malnutrition, which in turn is believed to underlie 45% of all childhood deaths around the world. The principal driver of diarrheal disease is the absence of accessible toilets through much of the developing world. Human fecal matter contains a number of pathogens that are harmful when consumed by humans, particularly children. In the absence of toilets, many people defecate in the open, and this releases the fecal pathogens into the environment. These pathogens eventually find their way through the fecal-oral pathway into drinking water and foods consumed by people. Worldwide, about 1 billion people have to relieve themselves outdoors because they have no access to toilets, and another 2.5 billion people have access only to rudimentary “unimproved” (in the parlance of the WHO) toilets.

Sewer systems—the mainstay of sanitation infrastructure throughout the industrialized world—are not a realistic option for these communities. Our imperative, therefore, is to create toilets that can safely dispose of the waste without the need for sewers. These toilets also have to be affordable, clean, and aesthetically attractive, in order to encourage consistent usage. And finally, the toilets have to be deployable in both individual household and community settings.

The Tiger Toilet—originally developed by Bear Valley Ventures from the UK and PriMove India—is a very promising vermicomposting toilet. As of the end of 2015, more than 200 units of this toilet have been deployed over the course of two years, in India. This toilet uses a traditional Indian commode with a pour-flush. The waste then enters a tank, which contains a large number of Eisenia fetida worms (commonly found throughout India) and a drainage layer. The solids are trapped at the top of the system where the worms consume it, and the liquid is filtered through the drainage layer. Extensive laboratory scale trials found that the worms reduce the solids in the system by over 80%, and the effluent quality is higher than that from a septic tank. Two years of use by households in India has so far shown very high levels of user satisfaction, as well as reductions in open defecation in those communities.

Under the auspices of India’s Swacch Bharat initiative, our objective is to work with infrastructure development companies to deploy many thousands of these toilets over the next few years.

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Climate Change and Environmental Damage

  • The Eisenia fetida worms, used in the Tiger Toilet, are commonly found throughout India.
  • A Tiger Toliet unit installed in rural Maharashtra
  • A typical digester unit of the Tiger Toliet. This picture was taken within two hours of the toliet being used by a family of four, in rural Maharashtra

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