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A Toilet that Doesn’t Need Water

Startup Spotlight

change:WATER Labs is helping refugees get access to sanitation. It was one of the seven winners at the MIT Enterprise Forum Innovate for Refugees Competition in partnership with Zain Group and MBC Hope.

 

By Maya Sioufi

 

Diana Yousef is a bioscientist with a business degree. She spent the early part of her career working across the private sector and international development organizations, including McKinsey, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). She was also a venture capital investor for two funds, including the strategic venture fund for Battelle Labs, spinning cleantech and biotech innovations out of Academic and US government laboratories into seed-stage startups.

 

As the financial crisis started hitting the economy, Diana was moved into private equity. “I hated it,” she says. “ I don’t need permission from titans of finance to find the right model for my career, I am going to find it myself”.

 

That’s when Diana started dating startups and doing advisory consulting work and helping with social entrepreneurs and innovators. Her interest in water, a problem she says is ignored yet so fundamental to every function of life, took a front seat.

 

In July 2013, Diana launched her water solution, an evaporative toilet, now known as change:WATER Labs. The evaporative toilet expands dignified sanitation access to homes with no power or plumbing. It evaporates between 90-99% of daily sewage volumes without the use of energy or water.

 

The toilet collects waste solids and liquids in a collection container where the polymer then aggressively soaks up all the water and releases it as pure vapor to the air, while hygienically containing the residual dried solids. Like all offline sanitation solutions, this solution would require collection servers but compared to other solutions, it has provides much more drastic and rapid onsite volume reductions according to Diana.

 

The technology slashes collection costs in half, enabling unprecedented scalability and economic feasibility for off-line or distributed sanitation services. It can be used by people who don’t have access to a sanitation grid. It also provides health and safety for “women and girls who try to find somewhere to relieve themselves” says Diana.

 

change:WATER Labs won one of the top spots at the MIT Enterprise Forum Innovate for Refugees Competition which took place in Jordan in September and it also came in first place in the Harvard Arab Weekend Startup Pitch Competition, winning the Said Darwazah Entrepreneurship Prize.

 

As for the cost, Diana is still in the process of determining the final cost but she explained that it is likely to be at least 100 to 150 dollars less than comparables.

 

Diana is now in conversation with potential customers such as governments, non-governmental organizations as well as sanitation service providers. She has a letter of interest from a group in Panama for 3 thousands units and plans on using the funds she won at the MIT Enterprise Forum Innovate for Refugees Competition to develop her prototype. She plans on having the first version ready by the first quarter of next year.