Sulabh Flush Compost Toilet
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak
The Sulabh Flush Compost Toilet is a two-pit and pour-flush household toilet consisting of a squatting pan.
The Sulabh toilet is a twin-pit system which composts waste on-site. The two leach pits retain solid matter and allow the liquid to leach and gases to disperse into the ground. Once one pit is filled, waste is diverted to the second pit. This dual-system allows adequate time for the waste to decompose into fertilizer.
This toilet system is manufactured and implemented by the Sulabh International in coordination with local government authorities when constructing community toilets.
The toilet system is available in 11 models, with costs ranging from 31 – 275 USD.
There are range of similar products around the world which adopt twin pits for pour flush toilet system. Alternative types of latrine options include Bio-latrines, VIP latrines, Fossa Alterna, Composting, the DuraSan Latrine, Elephant Toilet, and Easy Latrine.
Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation
Target users include public facilities (e.g. bus stations, railway stations, markets) and low-income communities comprised of households who do not have access to individual toilets.
The pits are constructed with locally available materials including bricks, cement, and wood.
Sulabh International delivers and installs toilets directly for users. In low-income communities, the organization partners with local government authorities for financing.
1.2 million residences and building have implemented Sulabh toilets.
Type of toilet
Method of evacuation
How the fecal sludge is stored
The holding volume of the containment
Time until emptying is estimated to be needed
The Sulabh Flush Compost Toilet is designed as a two-pit system to ensure that one could be used continuously to contain waste while the second allows waste to decompose and become fertilizer. The toilet pan has a steep slope (25°-28°) and the plumbing uses a water-seal (20 mm) to prevent odours. Water conservation was considered during the design, so each flush only requires 1 – 1.5 liters of water. The two pits are sized based on the number of users, designed with a lifetime of 3 years of use per pit.
Operation and maintenance is performed by Sulabh and funded through a pay-per-use model, while maintenance in low-income areas is cross-subsidized with income from the toilets in wealthier, busier areas.
Replacement components are provided by the manufacturer when needed during maintenance.
The manufacturer has specified performance targets related to constructability in varied environments, minimal health and environmental hazards, easy maintenance, less space needed than a septic tank toilet system, and elimination for the need of scavengers to clean the pits.
An assessment was performed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 2006 to assess the operation, impact and financing of Sulabh International within the context of the sanitation landscape in India. This included an examination of the organisation’s mode of operation, its impact on health and hygiene, and the eradication of scavenging.
Testing organizations include World Health Organization, United Nations Development Program, Government of India.
If the pits are not constructed properly and well-sealed, there is the possibility of groundwater contamination. In addition, the time needed for waste digestion before it becomes pathogen-free is still debated. Furthermore, the product is deemed not applicable in hard rock environments due to potential groundwater contamination.
As the toilets are designed for pour-flushing, a water source needs to be implemented nearby to allow for continual water usage. Secondary treatment can also be considered.
Srinivas, V., Chary, A., Narender, K. Rao, R., 2003, Serving the poor with sanitation: the Sulabh approach, 3rd World Water Forum, PPCPP Session.
Jha, PK., 2004, Health and social benefits from improving community hygiene and sanitation: an Indian experience, International Journal of Environmental Health Research, pp. 133-140.
Chary, S., 2003, Pay-and-use toilets in India, Waterlines, Vol. 21. Issue 3.
Ramani, S., Ghazi, S., Duysters, G., 2012, On the diffusion of toilets as bottom of the pyramid innovation: Lessons from sanitation entrepreneurs, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Vol. 79, Issue 4, pp. 676-687
The toilets meet each of the seven conditions of a sanitary latrine presented by the World Health Organization (page 39 of document).
The toilets and produced fertilizer have been evaluated by a group of volunteers (technocrats, managers, scientists, engineers, doctors, and architects) for their structural performance and health impact.
Sulabh and its founder, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, have been awarded several awards over the past 40 years including the Padma Bhushan (1991), the International Saint Francis Prize for the Environment-“Canticle of All Creatures” (1992), the Bombay Citizen’s Award (1992), the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award (1994), the Babu Jagjivan Ram Award for abolishing scavenging (1997), and the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Award (2003).
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