Unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene together with deficient nutritional status are major contributors to the global burden of disease. Safe collection, disposal and reuse of human excreta would enable the risk of transmission of diseases to be decreased and household food security to be increased in many regions. However, the majority of the 2.5 billion people lacking improved sanitation comprise poor people in societies with weak infrastructure. This study developed a low cost sanitation option requiring little investment and maintenance—a single use, self-sanitising, biodegradable toilet (Peepoo bag) and tested it for smell, degradability and hygiene aspects. It was found that no smell was detectable from a 25 μm thick bag filled with faeces during 24 h in a 10 m2 room at 30°C. Bags that had been in contact with urea-treated faeces or urine for 2 months in air, compost or water at 24 or 37°C showed little signs of degradation. Furthermore, pathogen inactivation modelling of the 4 g of urea present in the bag indicated that appropriate sanitation of faecal material collected is achieved in the bag within 2–4 weeks, after which the bag can be degraded and reused as fertiliser.

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