Questions for ‘A dirty and growing problem: Too few toilets’

a photo of a toilet paper roll against a blue background

Throughout the world, some two in every three people lack access to a toilet. Science is now looking to help them deal with — and maybe even find benefits in — their unflushed wastes.

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To accompany feature “A dirty and growing problem: Too few toilets


Before Reading:

1.  What would you do if you really had to pee or poop and there wasn’t a toilet anywhere? List some options for what you would do.

2.  What would it be like if everyone peed and pooped outdoors? What problems might that cause?

During Reading:

1.  What percentage of people around the world cannot dispose of their poop and pee in a clean and safe way? In what parts of the world do most of these people live?

2.  Where do the wastes you flush down the toilet go? What happens after the sewer system delivers the wastes to a treatment plant?

3.  What happens to flushed wastes if your toilet is connected to a septic tank?

4.  According to the World Resources Institute, how many people in low- and medium-income countries do not have a safe way to dispose of their bodily wastes? Why is that a problem?

5.  Why can’t everyone have toilets and sewer systems? Name two reasons.

6.  People in poorer parts of the world may not have enough money to fund sanitation projects. What type of toilets is the company Sanergy providing to the people of Nairobi, in East Africa?

7.  What happens to the wastes that are collected from Sanergy’s toilets? What insect are they using to turn the wastes into animal feed? How does that work?

8.  What do most Kenyans use as a bathroom? How is the company Sanivation helping to process the wastes from latrines in the community of Naivasha?

9.  How might wastes from these latrines affect nearby Lake Naivasha? What might a  lake algae bloom do to the aquatic organisms and people exposed to the water?

10.  The Reclaimer is a toilet being tested in Coimbatore, in southern India. How does this toilet work? What is being “reclaimed” with this process, and why is that important?

After Reading:

1.  Designing clever toilets for use in poorer countries is a good thing. But that doesn’t completely solve the problem. Why not?

2.  Sanitation is a basic human need. What role might city governments play in taking care of that need?