Getting Ready for Sustainable Sanitation
Thilo Panzerbieter, Founder and Executive Director of the German Toilet Organization (GTO), presented at Ecologic Institute, Berlin on worldwide sanitation, information campaigns in Germany and developing countries, and innovative toilet systems adapted to individual circumstances. As a non-profit NGO, GTO aims to protect health, human dignity, and the environment by providing clean and sustainable sanitation facilities accompanied by information campaigns. Karin Beese, Project Manager RADOST at Ecologic Institute, moderated the event.
Two and a half billion people worldwide live without sanitation facilities. In South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, more than two thirds of population are affected. Reasonable sanitation facilities are not only a matter of human dignity, but most importantly, they are a basic prerequisite for health. Every day, 4,000 children under the age of five die due to diseases that are caused by polluted water and inadequate sanitary hygiene. Diarrhea and worm infestation cause mal and undernourishment. Without the privacy of a school toilet, many girls in developing countries stop attending class once they reach menstrual age.
Nonexistent or badly constructed sanitation facilities are not only a considerable threat for human health. They also cause considerable damage to the environment and the economy. Cambodia alone loses 7 percent of its gross domestic product due to the consequences of missing sanitation facilities. In Germany, the treatment of waste water is a considerable burden for resources and ecosystems. Of the 50 litres of faeces and 500 litres of urine that a person produces on average per year, most health risks are caused by the smaller volume of faeces. In contrast, the 500 litres urine contain important nutrients like phosphor, natrium, and potassium, which are also used in expensive artificial fertilizers. In Germany, these nutrients are diluted with 50,000 litres of water per person per year and later removed with the high use of costly energy in wastewater treatment plants.
In order to design sanitation facilities in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way, Panzerbieter, a civil engineer specialized in sustainable sanitation, suggests the separation of material flows in order to treat and reuse them in a sensible way. In this context, toilet systems design depends very much on local circumstances, such as the available resources and the cultural setting. GTO, for example, builds school toilets in Zambia and domestic systems in Indonesia. In Germany, GTO organizes informational events for school children, courses for university students, and trainings for vocational staff of NGOs and consulting companies.
The event was the beginning of a cooperation between GTO and Ecologic Institute in the areas of water, resource management, and development cooperation.