Environmentally Friendly Toilets in Kenya: Sanergy
During their summer vacation, three MIT students visited Kenya and observed “flying toilets,” a facetious name for plastic bags that people put their feces into and then toss wherever they can.
This practice, caused by a lack of proper toilets, led to water contamination, which in turn led to various health problems.
For example, 1.6 million children die every year due to diarrhea—many of these cases are associated with water pollution. The students were shocked, and tried to come up with a sustainable solution.
In the end, they founded a social start-up called Sanergy, which distributes environmentally friendly toilet units, collects waste regularly, and turns that waste into organic fertilizer. By selling fertilizer to local farmers, they make money which can be reinvested into the distribution of more toilets.
Over the years, international development agencies and NGOs/NPOs have built lots of restrooms, but the operation costs are huge and many of these restrooms end up unmaintained.
In contrast, the start-up uses a franchise model, working with local people to operate the toilet. Sanergy’s franchisees make a living by charging people a small fee to use their toilets. In return, the franchisees clean the units, address any problems to provide necessary service. Thus, the Sanergy staff themselves can focus solely on the distribution of toilets.
© Hyun Shin, Hanyang University