The "iThrone": A portable, evaporative, waterless toilet for homes with no power or plumbing

We're developing a solution to expand safe sanitation to non-sewered homes with a portable toilet that vaporizes 95% of daily sewage onsite

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

change:WATER Labs, Inc

Year founded

2015

Initiative stage

  • Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $50k - $100k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 1 - 10

Organization type

  • For-profit

Secondary Focus Area

  • Water
  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • United States of America

Headquarters location: City

Cambridge, MA

Location(s) of impact

Our pilots are in:
Lebanon, Jordan: Syrian Refugee Camps
Panama: Panama City
Utah/Arizona: Moab, Hopi Indian Reservation

Website

http://www.change-water.com

Twitter URL

@changeWATERLabs

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Globally, 2.6Bn people lack access to safe, dignified toilets, trapping them in perpetual poverty, poor health and pollution. This translates into ~4Bn L of unmanaged sewage polluting people’s communities and water resources. By 2030, 5Bn people won’t be able to flush. When flushing isn’t an option, sewage accumulates in these communities, and the cost to remove it becomes unsustainable. Our planet’s future will require us to find a new way to “flush” with no plumbing or pipes, ie that doesn’t use water or emit carbon.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

We are developing a revolutionary portable toilet to vaporize off-grid sewage. Our solution increases toilet access without straining local water and cuts off methane emissions from unmanaged sewage. Our toilet eliminates >95% of daily sewage volumes ONSITE, expanding safe, hygienic, private sanitation in un-sewered homes at low-cost and low-maintenance. Our core innovation is a novel polymer material to “shrink-wrap crap”, aggressively “flushing” away >95% of daily onsite sewage volumes, evaporating its full liquid content without the need for power or heat. All that is “flushed” out of our toilet is pure, harmless water vapor, while a small amount of dried solids remain safely contained inside. Drastic onsite volume reductions mean 10-15x fewer collections and >50% reduced collection costs. Our technology allows our toilet to be stand-alone and compact, ideal for urban settings. We would sell toilets and replacement membranes to existing sanitation providers (contractors, servicers).

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

Poor sanitation perpetuates poverty, erodes health, promotes violence and cuts off opportunity, especially victimizing women and girls. But, it is incredibly difficult to scale safe sanitation (affordably, sustainably) to “off-line” communities without huge, costly infrastructure expansion. Our toilet unshackles high-quality, low-cost sanitation from “the grid”, allowing safe, affordable, private toilets to be accessible anywhere. Our toilet also enhances resilience of communities, by better conserving and protecting local water sources, but also by replenishing them, converting sewage waste to pure water vapor. By containing and eliminating one family’s daily sewage in an urban community or camp, our toilet can reduce spread of vector-borne diseases (eg trachoma, typhoid, cholera) to ~500 people in the surrounding radius. One toilet also will avoid 20-100MT/yr of methane emissions. Replacing a flush toilet with our toilet will conserve 16-40K liters/household/yr of freshwater.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

change:WATER Labs is structured as a for-profit company. We will be selling our toilets and replacement collection pouches made of our membrane to sanitation servicer providers and contractors who build sanitation infrastructure in un-sewered communities. We are still developing our product, which we will launch to the market next year (2018). Thus we are currently supported by grants and cash awards. However, within 9mo of launching our product to the market (mid-2019), we will be profitable and able to fully fund our operations and support growth of the business from earned income.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

Our game-changing toilet paves the way a planet of 10Bn people to access safe, scalable, sustainable sanitation. No other sanitation technology can achieve rapid onsite sewage elimination without significant use of water or energy or waste discharge. By eliminating >95% of sewage at the point-of-production and in “real-time” (within hours), our "virtual flush" solution leapfrogs over the need for sewerage infrastructure.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

As a result of some work I did for USAID, I began to explore breathable materials--maybe we could leveraged their moisture elimination properties in low-cost, low-carbon off-grid water treatment. Sourcing a number of these materials, I started experimenting in my kitchen. Eventually, I discovered a novel combination that I used to formulate a proprietary composite membrane with a surprisingly high rate of water evaporation without the addition of any heat or energy. My market research convinced me that the more direct application of my solution was not water purification, but rather water elimination. I began to focus on off-line sanitation, the problem of getting rid of sewage in non-sewered communities. After speaking with key experts in the field, we gained confirmation that our approach would address a huge pain-point for off-line sanitation--the costly and frequent sewage removals.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Upon recommendation from others

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 50%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 50%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 0%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

2. Innovation

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 50%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Social and/or Environmental Impact

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

4. Financial sustainability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 100%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 50%

5. Potential to Scale / Replicability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 25%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 25%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

6. Organizational Leadership

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

7. Potential for Creating Shared Value

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 25%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 25%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

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Congratulations.