Closing the Loop, Transforming the Poop

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Closing the Loop, Transforming the Poop

Port-au-PrincePort-au-Prince, Haiti
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

SOIL builds ecological sanitation (EcoSan) systems in Haiti that transform human wastes into rich compost. By turning a public health problem into a sustainable solution for soil restoration, SOIL’s work sets a global example for how sanitation services can preserve nutrients and fight malnutrition.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Over 2/3 of the world's population has no access to a toilet and, as a result, waterborne disease is one of the leading causes of death in children under 5 in developing countries. While aquatic ecosystems are becoming increasingly polluted with nutrients from human waste, the Earth’s soils exhibit rapidly declining fertility, reducing agricultural production and leading to poverty and malnutrition.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

SOIL strives to counteract the downward spiral of soil degradation and poverty by developing social business models for EcoSan solutions. SOIL’s toilets safely collect toilet wastes which are then transported to decentralized composting sites. Through thermophillic composting, the wastes are safely transformed into rich compost critical for soil improvement. In order to increase market demand for this inexhaustible supply of soil nutrients, SOIL then engages in agricultural research and educational outreach. Potential income streams from throughout the EcoSan cycle (toilet and compost sales, user fees, and waste treatment fees) are used to support the project and entice entrepreneurs to replicate it around the country and globally.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In Shada, a densely populated urban neighborhood with few services and a devastatingly high rate of cholera, SOIL has begun constructing EcoSan toilets small enough and scentless enough to conveniently fit into small homes. The specially designed toilet seats separate urine and feces so that the potentially pathogenic solid wastes are collected into sealable 5 gallon buckets. In exchange for a monthly household user fee of approximately $5 USD, SOIL picks up the full toilet buckets each week and leaves toilet owners with clean empty buckets and a sufficient quantity of organic matter (such as peanut husks) to “flush” their toilets after each use. The user fees cover the full cost of transportation and maintenance.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Since building Haiti’s first EcoSan toilet in 2006 and Haiti’s first urban waste treatment site in 2009, SOIL has gone on to become one of the larger sanitation providers in Haiti with effective toilets and waste treatment facilities around the country, strong partnerships with the non-profit, business, and government sectors, and an information-sharing and educational program that has helped increase the use of EcoSan globally. SOIL now transforms 5,000+ gallons of human waste into compost on a weekly basis and 30,000+ people have accessed SOIL EcoSan toilets. 700+ people from more than 25 countries have downloaded The SOIL Guide to EcoSan and 1,000+ people have participated in SOIL educational activities. Over the next 3 years, SOIL's aims to treat 150,000+ gallons of human waste per year, provide sanitation for 40,000+ people, create 200+ jobs, and sell 250+ tons of compost.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Although SOIL is a non-profit, we believe that the key to sustainability is social business development. Our work explores the creation and capture of revenue throughout the EcoSan cycle to ensure that SOIL's projects can be brought to scale by the private sector. For example, SOIL recently sold a large quantity of compost to the farmers growing sorghum for Haiti’s famous beer, Prestige, setting a national example for demand driven sanitation.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

SOIL focuses on grassroots-level programming with an unparalleled level of cultural fluency, an inclusive process of program design, and a proven record of implementing projects in challenging circumstances. Too many innovations fail to reach beneficiaries due to lack of local connections or implementation expertise. And while there are some superb working models for how innovative designs can be implemented at the community level, they rarely have a robust information-sharing program to assist others in replicating the success. SOIL's proven outreach program spread our success globally.

Founding Story

In a soil science course, one of my exam questions was “you are a nitrogen molecule, describe your journey through the ecosystem”. This inspired me to view the world in terms of elemental cycles and I began peeing on my compost pile in an effort to recycle nutrients through my own body. Later in my studies I became fascinated with the philosophy of liberation theology. Like ecology, liberation theology argues that every being has value and there is no such thing as “waste”. SOIL was founded on an idea of liberation ecology: every human being has the right to health and happiness. We work on providing nutrients and healthy environments through the recycling of human wastes, on a much larger scale than my backyard compost pile.
About You
About You
First Name


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About Your Organization
Organization Name


Organization Country

, Port-au-Prince

Country where this project is creating social impact

, Port-au-Prince

Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

SOIL won first prize in the 2013 Land for Life Award from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in recognition of SOIL's integrated approach to resolving the issues of inadequate sanitation, declining soil fertility, and extensive erosion. SOIL is also a member of the Clinton Global Iniative. SOIL's Co-founder and Executive Director is a Waldzell Fellow, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer and Huffington Post Greatest Person of the Day.

Nutrients For All
Where do you ensure the availability of nutrients?

Healthy environments., Nutrient-rich farming, Human wellness and vitality.

If you had greater capacity, which additional sectors would you like your solution to target - either through expansion, partnership, or thought exchange?

Healthy environments, Nutrient-rich farming, Full nourishment foods, Human wellness and vitality.

How specifically would this added capacity help you improve the quality, efficiency, or sustainability of your existing product or service?

With increased capacity, SOIL would expand programs to meet all Nutrients for All targets. We would increase our R&D of novel methods for recycling human wastes thereby improving nutrition, environmental restoration, and agricultural production. We would focus on expanding the market for the nutrient-rich compost produced at our facilities and streamlining the provision of sanitation services in order to reduce user costs. We would also expand our outreach and education programs to encourage social businesses to replicate our successful programs, extending the impact of our work globally.


Tim Scheu's picture

Truly, an extraordinary initiative.