Hygiene for billions of people

TÜV SÜD is supporting the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in developing innovative sanitation solutions

Rare Treasure: Water is not readily available everywhere in the world.
Illustration: iStock; Veronika Schmidt

More than one third of the world’s population does not have access to clean drinking water and a functioning sewer system. These deficiencies lead to serious disease and even epidemics. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation contracted TÜV SÜD as an international service provider to develop a standard for sanitation technologies.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched its global Reinvent the Toilet Challenge in 2011. This initiative tackles the challenge of inventing a completely new type of toilet. The goal is to find a long-term sanitation solution for the estimated 2.5 billion people who do not have access to water and therefore to hygienic and affordable toilets. Innovative products should work to destroy germs and save natural resources. The systems must function off the grid without connections to water, sewer or electrical lines, operate reliably without maintenance even in sparsely populated areas, and look appealing so that people want to use them.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation selected TÜV SÜD as a partner for its initiative to enable access to a hygienic toilet for everyone. The first step is to develop a technical standard for sanitation technologies to ensure safe, sustainable access to such facilities in developing and emerging nations. This basic standard is being developed with the help of TÜV SÜD’s water experts.

“Up to now, decentralized solutions have often not been safe, durable or were simply too expensive,” says Dr. Andreas Hauser, head of the Water Services department at TÜV SÜD. According to Hauser, one reason for this problem is the lack of recognized standards and best practices to ensure that product technology is well-engineered and safe for users while at the same time complying with environmental regulatory requirements. Recognized standards could establish a common and transparent foundation for everyone involved, which would promote development efforts by manufacturers as well as implementation by governments, developmental aid organizations and operators.

The TÜV SÜD project to develop a standard is slated to last three years. Hauser states that the resulting technologies would be utilized primarily in developing and emerging nations such as India, Senegal and South Africa. There is also significant potential in developed nations for using solutions that are not connected to the normal supply and sanitation infrastructure and meet regulatory requirements.