Water-free sanitation in Peru
Lima is the second-driest capital city in the world owing to its desert location and the impacts of climate change. Faced with an acute shortage of water, the state-owned water utility recently announced that it would not build sewers for any communities in Lima that became formal after 2004. This decision leaves 3 million residents without access to the city’s water or sewage system, and so without water-based toilets. The utility is exploring alternative, waterless sanitation solutions.
Most Lima residents who lack sewage system access currently use pit latrines, which pose a number of hygienic risks. Moreover, for logistical and cost reasons, people generally close up latrines when full (rather than having them emptied) and build new ones, rapidly using up available space and increasing the risk of ground collapse due to soil contamination.
A pioneer in sustainable sanitation and run as a social business, x-runner has developed a system that satisfies the needs of users whilst meeting modern standards of sanitation and waste treatment. Its portable dry toilet separates liquid from solid waste, collecting the latter in a bin lined with a compostable bag. The system includes a weekly pick-up service whereby full bags of solid waste are collected from customers’ homes and treated at a hub facility through a composting process.
What most clearly distinguishes x-runner’s solution from the host of alternative sanitation technologies that have emerged in the last few years is that it encompasses the collection and ecologically sustainable processing of the output of its toilets, providing a “cradle-to-grave” solution. The pickup service offers a platform not only for implementing dry toilets, but also for testing and scaling up other new technologies.
x-runner’s sanitation service is designed to be both economically and practically attractive to consumers in Lima.
GOALS AND EXPECTED IMPACT
This project tested whether x-runner’s sanitation solution is scalable and sustainable in economic, ecological and social terms. In particular, the project demonstrated the feasibility of the dry-toilet technology and hub system; the existence of demand for a dry toilet, the weekly pick-up service and the compost produced at the treatment facility; and the ability of x-runner’s business model to become self-financing and to improve customers’ lives.