Lack of sanitation is a pervasive human rights concern globally that impacts other rights, including gender equality. While not an exact marker of the status of the right to sanitation, as of 2015, 2.4 billion people around the world are estimated to be using unimproved sanitation facilities, defined as those that do not hygienically separate human excreta from human contact. Lack of sanitation is not only an affront to an individual’s dignity and rights, but endangers the rights to the highest attainable standard of health and to safe drinking water of other people because of the contaminating nature of human faeces. Nearly a billion people practice open defecation—which has been linked to malnutrition, stunting, and increased diarrheal disease, among other negative impacts.

Sanitation does not turn solely on the presence of a toilet or latrine. It encompasses the entire system for the collection, transport, treatment, and disposal or reuse of human excreta and associated hygiene. Breakdowns or barriers at any point within the system can lead to devastating impacts on people’s lives and rights.

More than half of the world’s population uses unsafe sanitation facilities. Even in places where people have access to toilets or pit latrines, their waste isn’t disposed of safely. The pathogens from the waste find their way into the local water supply and makes people sick. The diseases caused by contaminated water kill more than 500,000 children under five every year. Those who survive are often too sick to go to school.

It’s no exaggeration to say that poor sanitation holds back whole communities and entire nations. If you live in a level 3 or 4 country, you can thank your sewer system for keeping you safe. Sewers have historically been the best way to make sure waste isn’t releasing harmful pathogens into the environment. But what if you didn’t need a sewer to keep people safe? What if your toilet could dispose of waste all on its own? NATCO have been involved in an innovative schools toilette scheme since last year that could change the world.


The Scandinavian Water Company, started little more than two years ago and have, up to now, focused on importing Swedish Eco toilets with very low water consumption into South Africa. At the time, the decision to import the toilet system hardware was in direct response to the immediate threat of drought and urgent water restrictions in place across the Western Cape. They have since pivoted their focus to a more long-term and sustainable business model that includes all aspects of waste management from producing the toilet units, handling of waste matter, educating and supporting communities to be empowered to better manage their water, sanitation and hygiene needs. Over a year ago NATCO became a committed sponsor of the toilette project and we are very proud to be part of such an important and desperately needed initiative.

Our aim is to uplift and empower communities by delivering a sustainable solution that caters for all aspects of the sanitation / waste management lifecycle.

A complete solution

The majority of sanitation (non-water based) solutions for schools are pit latrines of various types and cheap water-based products without any direct requirements for low water consumption, or no sanitation solution at all. Our solution is based on the end user experiencing the toilet as nice and fresh and hygienic. It should be as enjoyable an experience as possible, for a long time to come.

The hybrid toilet

The hybrid toilet is a Urine Diversion Dry Toilet (UDDT) made in ceramic, it has been on the Swedish market for more than 20 years. It has a micro flush function for urine only (100 ml water per flush) and connects to a box for faeces. The box is designed to dry the faeces by making use of solar driven technology or electricity. When full, the box can be emptied and the contents processed into soil conditioner, land feeding instead of landfilling. There are other options to deal with the faecal waste matter (e.g. processed into fuel briquettes). Ultimately, the opportunity this provides us is the ability to waste matter into a useful resource in a closed circle system.

The burning need – sanitation solutions for rural schools

The pilot project was rolled out at a school in the Eastern Cape which reached out to the SWC to help explore possible toilet solutions for them.

This gave us an opportunity to travel deep into rural communities and work together with the community leaders to understand the real problem. In our meetings with several rural schools around the area, we were able to see first-hand the real problem with school toilets – poor maintenance, toilets without doors, inability to deal efficiently with faecal waste matter and communities that are not empowered around good hygiene practices.

In some schools, pupils are forced to defecate in the open due to a lack of toilet resources. The effects of poor sanitation and hygiene practices in schools are well documented and felt the hardest by young school girls. They regularly miss school during their menstrual cycle because there is no private place at school to handle their sanitation needs. Their physical security is also compromised as they are made vulnerable due to a lack of toilet solutions.

The Solar Sanitation Project – From Pit Latrines to the Throne for Kings

The first project was completed in November of 2020 in the Eastern Cape to improve their current toilet and sanitation situation. We have deliberately called this the “From Pit Latrines to the Throne for Kings” to radically change the toilet narrative and reality for these school pupils.

We want the toilet experience to be transformed from the current dirty, shameful and unpleasant one to something that is not just dignified and enjoyable but one that leaves the children feeling like they are deserving of nice things too, in a royal way!

This is what Dawn Brochenin Ncinci Ones Montessori School in Coffee Bay writes about our solution. “The children and adults are over the moon with joy! These toilets are enabling the children and staff to have a dignified, safe and healthy toilet experience, which is unheard of in our area. A toilet is one of the most important places, and yet people just take it for granted!

Opportunity for women empowerment and social upliftment

A key focus of the pilot was the opportunity to significantly improve the lives of young girls and women in the community. The direct result of providing access to better and safer toilets at school will be the ability for school-going girls to continue their education uninterrupted by their menstrual cycles. The other area is creation of employment for female entrepreneurs in the community through our Sanitation Ambassadors initiative. The Sanitation Ambassadors is essentially an organisation with a District Manager within a region that takes accountability for managing a group of sanitation solutions either across schools or a specific community.

It is her responsibility to ensure that all aspects of the solution are in working order and delivered on schedule. This includes coordinating and directing the services for the collection service, scheduled maintenance. She will also be responsible for rolling out awareness and education initiatives e.g. WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and menstrual hygiene.

Since it’s inception the project has come a long way and Birger Lundgren “Burger”, the brainchild and genius behind the project, is even more passionate about this initiative as his understanding and knowledge of this global challenge and rather desperate problem grows.

Birger and his team have since then developed a much more economical system of multiple units attached to each other, all built with recycled and sustainable materials, that not only drop the cost of manufacture dramatically, but also helps the greater environment.

The inspiration for this unit was taken from an IKEA modular flatpack and is easy to transport and assemble on site, ideal for our rural areas where access is difficult and resources are scarce.


For us at NATCO this project is probably one of the most important initiatives we have ever been involved in as we are firm believers in supporting the communities we operate within. It is part of our mission and our vision that as a South African business it is our responsibility to help in the upliftment of our people and our society. We are 100% behind Birger and his team to make this an ongoing national initiative.

As we come up to World Toilette Day on the 19th November 2021, we encourage all our clients to get involved in any way they can in this critical global drive. Please get hold of Patrick or Mike if you would like to show your support.

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