Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan aims to eradicate open defecation by October 2, 2019, the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. However, as per 2015’s Swachhta Satus Report, over half of rural India (52.1%) still defecates in the open.
The same report also reveals that only 45.3% households have access to sanitary toilets. Furthermore, a survey found that 95.6% of households that had access to a sanitary toilet, were using it. It can be concluded that if more households had access to toilets, open defecation would reduce.
In an innovative attempt to contribute towards the PM’s initiative, a group of IIT Madras students is converting plastic PET bottles into durable construction materials. Using these materials, the students plan to build toilets in rural India, with the first ‘bottle toilet’ to be set up in Bandikavanoor in Sholavaram Taluk in the Thiruvallur district. This idea was born at the 18th edition of the four-day Shaastra tech fest, which is one of Asia’s largest student-managed technical festivals.
The 400 mL PET bottles used for this venture were collected from city restaurants. These bottles were then filled with coarse sand and water. After this step, the water is drained and later filled with more sand, up till the brim.
The result of this process is an 800-gram discarded bottle that can function just like a construction brick. To check the effectiveness of this idea, the students have built a bench inside the IIT Madras campus and will carry out tests before beginning the construction of toilets.