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24. April 2012

Borealis and Borouge endorse mobile toilet innovation x-runner to help meet the global sanitation challenge

Borealis and Borouge, leading providers of innovative and value-creating plastics solutions, announce that the companies are supporting the development of the x-runner portable toilet venture in order to address the growing sanitation challenges in the world’s least developed countries.

The United Nations (UN) estimates that in the developing world, approximately 2.5 billion people do not have a dignified or safe place for performing their basic necessities in a hygienic and private way. Nor do they have regular waste collection and treatment facilities to keep streets and communities clean. In such environments, up to ninety percent of human excreta can end up untreated in rivers, causing serious water and environmental pollution, widespread damage to human health as well as depressed economic and human development.

According to the UN World Water Report 2012, “Sanitation infrastructure is not keeping pace with the world’s urban population growth, and more than 80 percent of the world’s wastewater is neither collected nor treated.” In the industrialised world, the modern sanitary revolution has long meant that everyone has access to a flush toilet in their home. Water for bathing, laundry and all domestic use is piped into the household, and once used, piped out again. The world’s urban population is forecast to increase to 6.3 billion people by 2050, from 3.4 billion in 2009. This growth will increase problems of adequate water supply, sanitation and drainage, especially in urban slums already faced with a backlog of unserved populations.

However, an important difficulty in addressing the sanitation crisis is that many slums and rural areas do not have the necessary resources or infrastructure to install the conventional waterborne models for sewerage systems. 

x-runner Venture, an innovative sanitation initiative and a social business concept is addressing this challenge. It offers an urban, private, water-neutral and low cost solution for the global sanitation crisis. At the core of the system is a compact squat toilet that can be used at home, does not require any connection to a sewage system and fits into small spaces. Human waste is collected in a tank underneath the base, before being brought to a treatment facility for recycling into biogas and compost which can then be used in households in the form of cooking gas, warm water and electricity. As the toilet is made from treated plastic, it provides anti-bacterial and dirt-repellent characteristics, allowing easy cleaning using little water.

The x-runner mobile toilet unit needs to withstand heavy use and the cost of production needs to be as low as possible. ”Borealis can contribute not only with financial support during the start-up phase until the social business concept gets going, but also with know-how and expertise identifying which is the most appropriate material to use and how to improve the design so production costs can be kept at a reasonable level,” explains Mark Garrett, Borealis Chief Executive.  Plastic materials offer excellent perspectives, because of their low density so individual toilets will not be heavy and are easy to handle and transport. In addition, they offer chemical resistance to faeces and cleaning agents, superior impact stiffness balance over a large temperature range, good cost / performance ratio and easy processing, which when combined, will make the final item affordable.

x-runner has completed design of a first prototype and a first pilot test in India capturing feedback from all stakeholders.  As a next step a pilot is now being done in Peru. The aim is to further fine-tune product design and to prove the service concept across the entire value chain.

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