Slum Sanitation Solutions
Around the world, contaminated water is responsible for infecting people with diseases, but politicians and aid groups do not want to talk about the root cause of the problem: a lack of toilets. We plan to improve water quality and global health in slums around the world by providing low cost toilets that convert human waste into valuable fertilizers and fuels using a biodigester.
Most people living in slums earn less than $2 a day and cannot afford to use the expensive yet dirty pit latrines run by local landlords, and women in particular will not risk walking to the latrines at night because of the high rate of sexual assault. Instead, more than half of people in Kibera, one of the largest slums in the world, use the “flying toilet”: they poop into a plastic bag and then throw it out the window. This leads to egregious sanitation problems as feces literally piles up in the streets and waterways.
Our toilets will successfully replace flying toilets where community latrines have not because of their price and their security. We will sell small toilet units that people can put in their own homes at a price that is actually below the manufacturing cost of the toilets and thus affordable. Families will then use the toilet in the comfort and safety of their own homes until it is full. Then, one of our employees will bring the toilet back to our facility and empty it into the biodigester and return the empty toilet to the family. The biodigester will convert the human waste into fuel and fertilizer which will be sold. The profits from the fertilizer and fuel will easily cover the low cost of labor in slums, and soon pay back the cost of manufacturing the toilet.
Ultimately, our toilets will address one of the major root causes of contaminated water and disease in slums in order to improve people’s quality of life.
Our team consists of three freshmen at Harvard College. The team leader, Aaron Cheng, intends to concentrate in either Applied Math or a life science. He has a strong interest in business and tries to find ways to extend his knowledge of economics to impact the world on a larger scale. In high school he led his Academic Decathlon to victory on the county level and to 5th place in California. During his first and second semesters at Harvard, Aaron has culminated an interest in global health. He now works at Northwest Labs on the Connectomics project. For our team, Aaron will focus on economic viability of the project at every step, and work to integrate the knowledge of graduate school students into making our project a possibility.
Erik Schluntz plans to concentrate in in Engineering Sciences with a secondary in Economics. He has extensive experience with robotics, and worked for a non-profit startup called Anza the summer before college. At Anza, Erik redesigned products and negotiated for low cost production with Chinese manufacturers. Since then, Erik has developed a passion for engineering because he wants to create something of value to the world. He is now an executive director of the Entrepreneurship Forum and a member of the executive board for Engineers Without Borders. He will focus on product design and manufacturing.
Robert Gunzenhauser will pursue a degree in either Applied Mathematics or Economics. As a high schooler, he was involved with Model United Nations, Mock Trial, Orchestra, and the Board of Education. During his gap year, he traveled to Europe, Central America, and Asia to study Chinese, political philosophy, and economics. He has also volunteered at a child’s day care center and at a night school for adults. He will focus on market research for our project.