Wed, 08/12/2015 - 7:00am
Lindsay Hock, Editor
Every Wednesday, R&D Magazine will feature a R&D 100 Flashback, chosen from our R&D 100 archive of winners. This week’s flashback is American Standard’s SaTo, which won a R&D 100 Award in 2014. Lack of safe sanitation facilities causes 2,000 deaths/day worldwide, mostly among children. American Standard set out to help save these lives with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge to develop and test a low-cost, pre-fabricated toilet system for use in developing countries. The SaTo—derived from “safe toilet”—is a cost-effective, sanitary toilet pan designed for use in Bangladesh, where most people use non-hygienic open pit latrines to defecate.
Q: Briefly describe your winning technology.
A: American Standard invented the SaTo (derived from Safe Toilet) sanitary toilet pan in 2013 to help reduce disease transmission, provide safe sanitation facilities and improve quality of life for residents of Bangladesh, who were defecating using open pit latrines. This cost-effective SaTo toilet pan used ingeniously simple mechanical and water seals with a trap-door mechanism to close off pit latrines from the open air, thereby preventing flying insects from spreading pathogens from contact with human waste. Use of the SaTo pan allowed residents to continue “flushing” their waste using their traditional bodna container of water.
Q: What made your winning technology better than what already existed?
A: On a 2013 research trip to Bangladesh, the product design team observed the widespread use of non-hygienic latrines, where users fill a pot with water and use this to “flush” waste into the pit. The latrines were covered with a concrete slab in which a plastic toilet pan was encased. The pans had a large opening that allowed waste to fall through, but no seal to prevent transmission of pathogens back out of the pit via flying insects. The SaTo pan effectively and simply sealed off the latrine pits, while allowing residents to maintain their regular bathroom practices.
Q: How important was your winning technology to its end application?
A: The winning technology proved to be a highly successful solution to a serious health issue. Field tests, and subsequent permanent installations, garnered extremely positive feedback by users. The SaTo pan was easy to use, effective at reducing disease transmission, reduced occurrence of illness in children and virtually eliminated the strong latrine odor. Since the SaTo pans were designed to accommodate existing cultural and sanitation practices, their acceptance was widespread throughout the communities. By working with an established local manufacturer, the $1.85 SaTo pan cost made them attainable for a population surviving on less than $1.00 per day.
SaTo. Image: American StandardQ: Have you changed your winning product since you won the R&D 100 Award?
A: The model designed for Bangladesh hasn’t changed, and has received very positive reviews from the thousands of families that received the SaTo toilet pans. American Standard has developed a new SaTo model for use by low-income households in Sub-Saharan Africa. In many areas, such as rural Malawi and Uganda, both water and concrete—two key components in the original SaTo design—are scarce or expensive. Plus, alternate pan designs are being crafted to accommodate both squatting and sitting postures for use in this part of the world. These new-model SaTo toilet pans will incorporate local Sub-Saharan Africa bathroom practices, just as the original SaTo pan did in Bangladesh, with the goal of improving sanitation facilities without requiring a change in behavior.
Q: What value did winning an R&D 100 Award provide to you and your organization?
A: Winning this R&D 100 Award provided very real and meaningful validation that this seemingly humble product was well researched, thoughtfully designed and carried the potential to improve quality of life and provide dignity for people globally. This recognition supports the cause of global sanitation, providing much-needed attention to a critical health issue facing nearly 40% of the world population. The accolades for the SaTo toilet pan has helped it to be embraced by NGOs including BRAC, WaterAid and Save the Children and increased its distribution in other parts of the world, including Haiti, Malawi, Uganda and the Philippines.