Posted by: Wasrag | January 19, 2012

Private Enterprise Makes Social Change

The competition - pay toilets in the slum

In a Nairobi slum, where people live in close quarters with limited services, an enterprising group of MIT Business School grads decided to extend a school project into a full-fledged business – making urine diversion dehydrating toilets (UDDTs) and selling franchises.

The business is based on a simple formula: franchisees buy a toilet – $500 for year one, and about $80/yr. in subsequent years. For this they receive an installed toilet, mop, supplies, and training, PLUS collection of the urine and faeces, usually daily.

Although many of us are not aware of this, urine diverting, dehydrating toilets are very effective – with little odour. Urine is sterile and a very effective fertilizer (it may need to be diluted), and faeces, with not added water or urine, dries, especially in a hot climate, with little odour. The drying process provides primary treatment. Additional composting can provide secondary treatment. The result is another source of excellent fertilizer.

Many different kinds of people are investing in these new, clean, effective toilets. For example, a bar owner has installed one in her bar. Patrons get to use if for free. Others can use it for a fee. Her business has noticeably improved. People like having a clean, odour free place to “go”. And we all know how drinking beer affects us. Landlords have gotten on board. Yes they can increase the rent and that helps pay for the toilet. But it is justified by a better offering for their tenants.

Ah, the children

Groups of people have banded together and invested in a toilet. They share the cost and the use.

The business has more than one source of revenue. In fact there are three streams of potential income: toilet production and franchising, sale of the resulting compost, and, coming soon, a bio-digester that can turn the collected excrement into compost and methane gas. With the right generator, methane gas can be sold to businesses in the area as an alternative source of  back-up power. Electricity fails regularly in many countries and back-up generators are the norm.

UDD toilet - clean and attractive

The business is still small, and has developed carefully with lots of input and contact with the community. The sales force is learning too, with lots of coaching from the MIT business grads and other supporters. Motivated not just by profit, but by a desire to do good, all in all it’s a great example of reuse, reduce, recycle.

For more information visit:


Mold for toilet wall



  1. REALLY INTERESTING ARTICLE. Us there any possibility of schools in Kenya being recipients of this type of sanitary system? WASH IN SCHOOLS is really struggling to meet the need and this sounds like a very promising technology.

  2. Interestingly when I visited David (co-founder of sanergy) he mentioned that schools were one of their clients, albeit private schools. What the schools found was that parents picked them over the competition in part because they had better sanitation facilities. I would think this would be good at any school. Please also check out this case study re similar type of facility in a school in Uganda.

    I’m also sourcing information about a public private partnership run in about 30 schools (I think) in Malawi that used a similar UDDT system to treat waste. Will post in the next newsletter…

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