The Kohler and Caltech Team Takes Its Toilet Project From California to Delhi

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Global sanitation is an issue that is far from solved. It is still being addressed in countries around the world. More public awareness is needed, along with solutions, as in a country like India it is still a big problem. UNICEF says over 50 per cent of India’s population does not have access to proper toilets. Poor sanitation is something that not only affects the health of people, but also affects the economic and social development of a nation. Unfortunately, India is still far behind many countries with regards to sanitation. Most cities and towns here are characterised by over-crowding, congestion, inadequate water supply and not enough toilet facilities.

India has been encouraging rural communities to build toilets. In 2013 it launched a $1.6 billion program to help. However, building sanitation systems in developing countries is not easy. Flush toilets are not always an option. Many poor communities live in water-stressed areas. Others lack links to sewage pipes or treatment plants. So, the Kohler Co. and Caltech partnership is a promising one. They have been working together for more than two years to develop a photovoltaic toilet for the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This Challenge by the Gates Foundation aims to reinvent the toilet where the main goal is - to sanitise waste, use minimal water or electricity and produce a usable product at low cost.

The Kohler and Caltech toilet system includes a self-contained water purification and disinfection system that allows water to be reused and does not require wastewater disposal. Now, this collaboration is taking its toilet project and team from Pasadena, California to Delhi, India for the Reinvent the Toilet Fair, an event that showcases all the projects funded through the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. Every detail of the Kohler and Caltech toilet from the specific plumbing products used to the décor of the exterior was carefully chosen to fit in with the Indian culture. This was key, as regardless of the technology developed, the cultural acceptance of the solution will be critical to its success. Kohler’s global experience brought an insight into Indian culture to the project with Caltech.

There was extensive consultation with Indian marketing experts and designers. Plus Kohler’s Indian team assisted in choosing region-specific plumbing products as well as guidance on the overall décor to ensure that the Indian communities who will participate in field testing of the units will be more accepting of the new technology.

The World Bank estimates the annual global cost of poor sanitation at $260 billion, including loss of life, missed work, medical bills and other related factors. India alone accounts for $54 billion – more than the entire GDP of Kenya or Costa Rica (GDP is the market value of all officially recognised final goods and services produced within a country annually). Therefore, to be successful at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair, the designs exhibited must go beyond treating urine and faeces as undesirable waste and instead, recognise toilets as profit-generating resources for electricity, fertilizer or fuel.

Photo Credit: 3BL