A different kind of toilet, piloted in Madagascar during 2017, uses no water and generates electricity from poo. Aptly named the Loowatt, each loo can generate enough electricity to charge a mobile phone.
The water-less Loowatt uses technology to contain human waste within a biodegradable film which also inhibits odor. Once deposited in the biodegradable film, the poo is then stored in a cartridge for periodic emptying, much like a pit latrine system common in many parts of Afrika except this is safer and healthier, on a weekly or daily basis.
Loowatt in Madagascar.
"It just doesn't make sense to flush toilets with drinking water or to mask [toilet] odors with dangerous chemicals. Our product shows that a toilet can be waterless while offering a wonderful user experience," said Virginia Gardiner, CEO, and Founder of Loowatt.
How it works
Loowatt's patented sealing technology contains human waste within biodegradable film after a customer has used the toilet. Added to this it also utilizes what they call their "unique odor-inhibiting system" to ensure that there is minimal bad odor coming from the toilet. Once this is done, the human waste is then stored in a cartridge for periodic emptying.
Once collected, the Loowatt team then uses the biological process of anaerobic digestion whereby organic waste is consumed by micro-organisms and turned into biogas and stored in a gasholder. According to the startup, one bag of human waste from the Loowatt can generate enough electricity to charge a mobile phone. The other byproduct from this process is manure which can be used for planting crops.
How the Loowatt team generates biogas from human waste.
The Loowatt sealing system can also be built into existing toilets using off-the-shelf parts and local materials to maximize value.
The startup has offices in both the United Kingdom and Madagascar and has raised money from several investors including in Madagascar. In the United Kingdom, the Loowatt is mainly used at events.
Given how widespread, unhealthy and not safe pit latrine toilets are in Afrika, perhaps the Loowatt could be the affordable alternative especially in areas with limited supplies of water.