The world of toilets abounds with exciting new business and innovation opportunities in the places that no-one has been looking. These virtually untapped resources have the potential to garner significant positive impact for society.
In the developed world, the inconvenient reality is that while sewers have removed harmful waste from society, they have also literally been flushing valuable nutrients and biological resources down the toilet. We forget that “second-hand tomatoes,” whether from the farm, market, kitchen or even toilet, are basically the same thing. Investigations in Africa show that many businesses are processing organic waste streams together and revealing very interesting results.
A different way to look at things
At the Toilet Board, we no longer refer to what goes into our toilets as waste. We refer instead to “Toilet Resources.” This refers to the vast reservoir of biological resources and information about human health and behaviour that has yet to be fully explored. Toilet Resources can produce high performing organic fertilisers, increasing crop yields in places short of land and food. They also contain water which can be treated and reused in places short of water. Toilet Resources allow energy recovery in the form of renewable energy, unlike burning municipal waste or cutting down forests for fuel. Toilet Resources also hold the potential to create new and innovative products such as bio plastics, pharmaceuticals and pet food. When managed properly these resources are safe and available as reliably as we use the toilet, in volumes perfectly proportional to the population.
There is a big data and new tech angle to these resources as well. Imagine what preventative health interventions could be possible if sensors detected pathogens, bacteria, disease and nutrients in toilets? If their operations could be digitally optimized, think of how millions of new toilets and treatment plants would function economically. The digital toilet is a real prospect that could completely redefine sanitation and personal health practices.
The Sanitation Economy presents a wealth of new opportunities for global business leaders and local entrepreneurs in the developing and developed world alike. They must only be willing to venture where no one else has been looking.
Cheryl Hicks, Executive Director, Toilet Board Coalition, [email protected]