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On Earth Day, ANSI Recognizes High-Tech Sanitation Efforts with Global Impact

ISO PC 305 on Sustainable Non-Sewered Sanitation Systems Plays Key Role

4/21/2017

April 22 marks the 47th anniversary of Earth Day and highlights efforts to preserve and protect the environment’s air, land, and water. Large scale initiatives —such as non-sewered sanitation systems—are underway to reverse poor global sanitation, which remains a top environmental challenge and a daily threat to human lives. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the U.S. member body of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), proudly supports the advancement of high-tech sanitation solutions as secretariat of ISO Project Committee (PC) 305, Sustainable non-sewered sanitation systems, which is focused on the development of a new ISO standard for non-sewered sanitation systems, integral to ensure safety aspects of next generation or “reinvented toilets.”

Recent 2017 findings released by the World Health Organization (WHO) reveal the human cost of polluted, unhealthy environments: 1.7 million children under five years of age die every year. Environmental risks that endanger children include poor or no sanitation and inadequate hygiene. Also highlighting this critical environmental issue, a 2015 report by WHO and UNICEF found that one in three people worldwide, or 2.4 billon, lived without sanitation facilities and 946 million in 2015, and had no choice but to defecate in the open. Lack of facilities leads to the contamination of vital water sources and puts people at risk for crime and disease in developing countries—especially women and children.

In an effort to reverse this issue, the United Nations issued a global call to action for the elimination of open defecation by 2025. One initiative stepping up to the task is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, which aims to create a toilet that:

  • Removes germs from human waste and recovers valuable resources such as energy, clean water, and nutrients.
  • Operates “off the grid” without connections to water, sewer, or electrical lines.
  • Costs less than US$.05 cents per user per day.
  • Promotes sustainable and financially profitable sanitation services and businesses that operate in poor, urban settings.
  • Is a truly aspirational next-generation product that everyone will want to use—in developed as well as developing countries.

In support of this effort and sanitation progress, in September 2016, ISO published an International Workshop Agreement (IWA) that serves as the basis for the development of a new international standard for sustainable non-sewered sanitation systems. The document now serves as the working draft for the recently formed (2016) ISO PC 305 in developing the standard. See www.ansi.org/toilets for more information.

Also in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ANSI submitted to ISO an IWA Proposal on the subject of community-based resource-oriented sanitation treatment systems. The goal of this effort is to provide an efficient starting point for international standardization on a system to safely process human waste and possibly household waste and recover valuable resources such as water, energy, and/or nutrients through economically sustainable technologies in an off-grid and non-sewered environment. The IWA is expected to be published in 2018, when it can be adopted or incorporated by reference into the public health and building codes of countries. See www.ansi.org/WasteTreatment for more information.

In a recent blog post, Ed Osann, senior policy analyst and water efficiency project director, water program, at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), noted how efforts to achieve an international standard can help lead to the commercialization of high-tech sanitation devices “by providing clear benchmarks for performance and testing to guide product developers.” Mr. Osann represents NRDC on the U.S. delegation in ISO PC 305, co-led by the U.S. and Senegal. He explained that such a standard can help bring regulatory consistency to the global market—with widespread impact on developing nations, and noted how prototypes are already under development.

See related coverage, ISO Releases Standard, Two-Step Solution to Improve Sanitation for 2.4 Billion People, which highlights ISO’s two-pronged approach to improve sanitation with the new ISO standard ISO 24521, Activities relating to drinking water and wastewater services — Guidelines for the management of basic on-site domestic wastewater services.

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ANSI Nanotechnology Standards Panel