First Floating Compost Latrine Made in Shipibo Community

Last month, Alianza Arkana built the first floating compost latrine in the Shipibo community of Roya. Every year in the rainy season, Roya floods, causing health problems related to contact with untreated human waste from latrines, which is washed into the water when the river rises.

In many communities like Roya, people use traditional latrines, which consist of a whole dug in the ground or simple, above-ground latrines. Floods are common in the region, as Roya is alongside a tributary of the Ucayali River. These flood waters carry the human waste into the streets, and at times even the homes of local people. Consequently, diseases borne from unhygienic conditions spread.

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Following consultations with locals on this issue, the Alianza Arkana team designed an innovative quadruple vault composting latrine on a platform supported by used plastic bottles that give the structure adequate buoyancy to float. A floating compost latrine means the human waste will not be mixed into the water when floods occur.

In order to turn this idea of a sanitary composting latrine into a reality, Alianza Arkana staff and local and international volunteers worked several days to build the structure. Nearly 800 crushed plastic bottles, collected in a previous recycling campaign, were first inflated by hand, or more accurately, by mouth. Once filled with air, they were sewn inside two large fishing nets and attached to the underside of the platform supporting the compost latrine.

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There were concerns that the plastic bottles would not support the weight of the structure, which was built to last, using dense, locally sourced wood. But when carried to the river and put to the test, the construction’s buoyancy passed with flying colours, successfully supporting the weight of 10 adults and 16 children, amidst celebrations from locals. This was important as it shows that the compost latrine will float when floods occur.

Deborah Rivett, Tuesday, 18 December 2012

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