x-runner - portable toilets for the urban slums in developing countries

x-runner - portable toilets for the urban slums in developing countries

$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

X-runner is a social enterprise start-up that tackles the increasing sanitation crisis in urban areas in developing countries. The aim is to improve the living, health and security of families and individuals of the bottom of the pyramid in developing countries by introducing and distributing mobile toilets to private households in urban slums. The portable x-runner toilet offers an affordable, innovative, and accessible solution to bridge the lack of sanitary facilities and sewage systems in urban slums. The mobile, water-neutral x-runner toilet has been specifically designed according to the challenges of slum environments such as water scarcity, lack of a sewage systems, restricted space and poverty.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Of particular consideration in the product design and concept are women and children, who are often among those most affected by the sanitation crisis. For example women will avoid eating during the day in order to prevent to go to the toilet in daytime. Private household use of the toilets should assist in preventing dangerous situations from assault or animal bites. Human dignity is also enhanced when people must no longer expose themselves in public. Additionally, the following aspects of the x-runner development also provide positive benefits for the customer: - The use of an x-runner does not require the purchase of other goods such as plastic bags or chemicals - The user who empties the x-runner will receive an optional portion of generated energy at the biogas emptying station.

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

The x-runner is a key part of a sanitation and clean energy value chain. When the toilet is full, it can be converted into a rollable device, which will then be brought to a nearby public toilet where the content can be dumped. The public toilet will be hooked to a bio-digester where the feces will be processed and turned into clean methane gas. The user can benefit from the gas on spot by using it for cooking, for light, or to charge batteries. These infrastructure and collection network will be provided by our partner the leading and most influential NGO in the Indian sanitation sector Sulabh Int. that has sold and installed 1.4 mil. private toilets for rural areas and 6.000 public toilets. In conclusion the use of the toilet combines multiple consumer benefits, from enhanced household hygiene to the prevention of diseases and violence and to the generation of energy. Through the application of modern materials, the user will receive a product that meets western standards and symbolizes prosperity. The innovative x-runner toilet with its new developed antibacterial plastic, its low cost and highly efficient mechanical smell blocker, as well as the cooperation with our partner Sulabh Int. will enable us to address the huge and strongly growing market potential that will lead to a sustainable business model. Access to improved sanitation was declared a human right in July 2010 and is also one of the eight UN Millennium Development Goals set for 2015. Through the x-runner we are able to be a substantial part of making these visions a reality.
Impact: How does it Work

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

We are right now in an advanced product development stage. To ensure a quick and successful market entry we are preparing a pilot project in New-Delhi for the end of 2011, during which thirty local families will be provided with 30 prototypes. The pilot work package has been sub-divided into business and product-specific aspects that will be tested parallel. Sulabh International will provide the waste collection infrastructure and introduce the team to the community. In close collaboration with Sandec of Eawag the team will develop scientific research, data collection, data evaluation, and marketing methods to ensure a safe process. The x-runner toilet is a long-term solution and should bring drastic improvement to the lives of slum dwellers. It is not a fragile, nor a disposable product. It is a product that stays with the user – even if the situation of a resettlement should come up.
About You
About You
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About Your Organization
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Organization Address

Wilhelmstraße 67 D-10117 Berlin

Organization Country

, BE

Country where this project is creating social impact

, DL

How long has your organization been operating?

Less than a year

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What stage is your project in?

Idea phase

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

The initial idea of the x-runner is based on the thesis by designer Noa Lerner, who developed the concept together with the World Toilet Organization and the nonprofit organization betterplace.org. During her thesis at the UdK(Berlin) the goal was to develop a product that could help to relieve problems stemming from the worldwide sanitation crisis. During her research in India, Noa was faced with the problem and decided to bring the concept beyond the academic boundaries into an entrepreneurial implementation of the project.
Although the fundamental idea of the x-runner is adaptable to many urban slum regions worldwide, we have initially oriented the product to India in order to reach a targeted, concrete market. Currently Indian cities are not yet prepared to cope with the enormous influx of rural migrants. According to a World Bank study, some 42% of the population in 2005 lives below the poverty line of $1.25/day and 38% of the population lack access to a basic, functioning sewage system.
New ways of thinking, with innovative, affordable solutions are required in order for cities to manage this new situation. The x-runner is one such contribution. Through the involvement of the population, it can ensure the provision of quick and basic sanitation facilities for the socially weak lower classes in large cities.
Behind the x-runner toilet stands a young, innovative, and highly motivated team. We are product designers, business consultants, and industrial engineers from India and Europe who joined forces to fight against one of the world’s most pressing problems.

Social Impact
How many people have been impacted by your project?

Fewer than 100

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Cultural barriers:The manner of dealing with human feces in the Indian culture poses an elementary problem. The design of the x-runner attempts to circumvent this problem in two ways.On the one hand, by creating a physical(and therefore psychological) distance between the user and the product through a long metal handle. Secondly, the x-runner eliminates the stigma of carrying feces as well as exposes the user to less physical stress during the transportation.
Dependence on Partner:we don’t see the dependency as a weakness rather than a strength in terms of credibility and accessibility of the product.
Access to distribution channels:This problem will be avoided by cooperation with our local NGO which is already well known by consumers and can be used for a greater product acceptance

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

After the production of the prototype we are planning the prior explained pilot project in New Delhi with a following roll-out in the year 2012.
Our business model will consist of the sales and distribution of the x-runner to our local partners/NGOs, who will then facilitate and enable financing solutions to the individuals and families. Therefore a “top-down” approach will be employed to spread the use of the toilets. First, consumers with higher willingness to pay and affordability will be approached. The acceptance and affordability among higher classes will display an incentive to buy an x-runner for lower classes as they will perceive owning a toilet as a socially desirable behavior.

For each selection, please explain the financial and non-financial support from each

A high profile advisory board that displays a broad collective knowledge and experience in social business, environment, and entrepreneurship additionally backs the strong team.

The Noah Foundation will serve for the charitable aspects, including eventual informational studies on topics of hygiene and sanitation as well as supporting the fundraising for the pilot project and the team members.

Our team is supported in its aims by Sulabh International, the largest Indian NGO working in the field of sanitation. Since their founding, 1,2 million private household toilets and 6,000 public toilets have been sold by Sulabh International. They will provide us with test facilities & infrastructure in New Delhi & India.

Recently (2011), we established an interdisciplinary partnership with Sandec of Eawag, the world leading aquatic research institute, who will provide us with their knowledge and experience in implementing a sanitation project in developing countries. In close collaboration with the x-runner team Sandec will develop scientific research, data collection, data evaluation, and marketing methods to ensure a safe process.

In addition, we received active support for concept development and “Social Business” planning from the Humboldt-Viadrina School of Governance, in particular from Prof. Dr. Stephan Breidenbach, founder of betterplace.org. We are continuously permitted to draw on the extensive experience and expertise of those at the Humboldt-Viadrina School,as well as to use their premises for our work.

How do you plan to grow and/or diversify your base of support in the next three years?

Our target group is the slum-dwellers without a private toilet who live above the poverty line. These two factors ensure that there is a basic need for the toilets as well as a way for users to finance the product. The social impact of the x-runner toilet, just as well as the market potential are immense considering that there are no private sanitation solutions for slums on the market so far. In India alone we have a target market of around 3 million households.
As explained our business model will consist of the sales and distribution of the x-runner to our local partners/NGOs, who will then facilitate and enable financing solutions to the individuals and families. On this assumption, we hope to reach a production volume of 30,000 toilets that will be sold in the first three years. Within these 3 years we are aiming to target the region of New Delhi as well as expand to the rest of India. Due to the worldwide existing sanitation crisis we are aiming to expand the product to further regions such as Africa and South East Asia. Therefore we are planning with Sandec of Eawag another pilot project in Uganda after the pilot project in New Delhi.
Another potential market is to sell toilets to public schools in India. Only 50% of Indian schools have their own toilets. This especially poses a problem for girls, who often drop out of school when they reach puberty because of the lack of toilets. Furthermore, the open, innovative spirit of children could be used to gain acceptance for the x-runner.
To achieve our goals we want to develop further potential partnerships.

Please select your areas of intervention in the home improvement market

Design, Sanitation, Infrastructure, Environment, Urban development.

Is your innovation addressing barriers in the home improvement/progressive housing market? If so, please describe in detail your mechanisms of intervention

Worldwide 2.6 billion people do not have any access to proper sanitation.
1 billion people live in slums – mostly without a working sewage system.
In India alone 700 million people defecate in the open.
That leads to massive problems in terms of:
- poor health & spreading of diseases
- society
- poverty
- Threat of rape and animal attacks, especially for women and children
- Contamination of clean water, a scarce resources
- No dignity – primarily for women

In oder to deal with these problems we asked ourselves how can we deal with the following challenges:
- How to dispose faeces without a sewage system?
- How to deal with the lack of space in urban areas?
- How to flush when water is scarce?
- How to design a low price solution for people who earn $3-5 per day?

We know that our product – the x-runner toilet – and its future outlook will have a tremendous social impact to improve the urban housing of people living in slums.

Are you currently collaborating with private companies, or have you partnered with private companies in the past? With which companies?

Yes, we are collaborating with Borealis AG and Insys-Plast Ltd.

Please describe in detail the nature of the partnership(s)

We have a strong collaboration to the Borealis AG, a company specializing in polymer production. We are part of their CSR-Program "Water for the World". Borealis offers the x-runner team consulting, material supplies, and financial support toward the prototype design and the upcoming pilot project. Furthermore we are developing together with Borealis a specific material for the tank of the toilet. The interior of the tank will be coated with a anti-bacterial and dirt-repellent polypropylene blend, which allows the feces particles to detach easily from the tank walls.

The Insys-Plast Ltd. is a consultancy for plastic materials & technologies, who will support us in supervising the product development process.

Select the unit(s) with which the partnership was formed

Corporate social responsibility department, R&D department.