Toilets that save lives: a new International Standard to help

Few minutes to read
By Clare Naden
Tagged as MedicalWater
Published on

More than 2.3 billion people across the world lack access to basic sanitation services, including 892 million who defecate in the open. Hundreds of thousands of young children die each year from diseases as a result1). New technology is shaping up to provide safe sanitation systems in places that don’t have sewerage treatment plants, offering the potential to save lives and improve the well-being of many. The highly anticipated ISO standard to support this development has just been published.

For far too many people across the globe, lack of clean sanitation and drinking water is a way of life. Every day, they are exposed to life-threatening disease and illness, not to mention the risk of violence this poses to women and girls who have to wander into unprotected areas to go to the toilet. In March 2013, the United Nations launched a global call to eliminate open defecation by 2025 and made “access to adequate sanitation and hygiene for all” the target of one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the UN Agenda 2030.

To this end, exciting new technology is emerging, with the development of stand-alone sanitation systems that safely treat waste without the need to be connected to a traditional sewerage system.

New international guidelines for such technology will help to catapult the industry to a new level by providing safety and performance requirements that will not only enable their effective manufacture, but the development of the sector as a whole.

ISO 30500, Non-sewered sanitation systems – Prefabricated integrated treatment units – General safety and performance requirements for design and testing, is much awaited both by the industry that produces the systems and the countries that need them.

The treated outputs from systems meeting ISO 30500’s requirements will be free of bacteria, viruses and other harmful pathogens, thus protecting people and valuable resources, such as drinking water, from outbreaks of potentially fatal disease.

Dr Doulaye Koné, Chair of the ISO project committee that developed the standard, said ISO 30500 will demonstrate to manufacturers, governments, regulators and end users of the non-sewered facilities that they are safe, reliable and of good quality. This, in turn, will lead to the development of even better toilets in areas where infrastructure such as plumbing and electricity are just not feasible.

“ISO 30500 was developed by a wide range of experts from more than 30 countries, including representatives from the industry that is developing the technologies and those from governments in countries where there is a need,” he said.

“The manufacturers have expressed that the standard is greatly needed as a tool to drive innovation and help accelerate their products to market, while numerous governments are looking at the relevance of the standard as a basis for public policy.”

Lansana Gagny Sakho, CEO of the Senegalese Sanitation Utility ONAS, said Senegal is planning to adopt ISO 30500 and ISO 24521, Activities relating to drinking water and wastewater services – Guidelines for the management of basic on-site domestic wastewater services, as part of a policy to outsource the operation of non-sewered sanitation to private utilities.

“This latest standard will help speed up the professionalization of key private-sector stakeholders involved in this extraordinary revolution in on-site sanitation,” he said. “The impending adoption in Senegal of ISO 24521 and ISO 30500 will also play a part in the realization of the SDGs.”

Attawut Kumkrong, Head of Open Innovation and Partnership Management SCG Chemicals, a large petrochemical company in Thailand, said: “ISO 30500 can be considered a tool or guideline for sourcing and engaging proven technologies from research institutes to develop and manufacture them into commercialized off-grid sanitation solutions. Moreover, standardization allows for fair market competition by producing sanitation solutions with the same quality level, resulting in improved quality of life.”

ISO 30500 was developed by ISO project committee ISO/PC 305, Sustainable non-sewered sanitation systems, whose secretariat is jointly held by ANSI, ISO’s member for the USA, and ASN, ISO’s member for Senegal.

ISO 30500 is available from your national ISO member or through the ISO Store.

1) United Nations World Health Organization: Billions around the world lack safe water, proper sanitation facilities, reveals UN report

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