Plastic waste in pits – looking for data, studies, information on the amount of plastic waste in pit latrines

  • Hans Christian Dworak
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Plastic waste in pits – looking for data, studies, information on the amount of plastic waste in pit latrines

Hello everyone,

A colleague of mine is working on waste flow diagrams, to assess the amount of plastic waste leakage from settlements into the ocean. From a sanitation perspective, we thought that beside open drains, plastic waste from pit latrines has a high potential in this regard.

In the forum, there are already several threads on the problem of solid waste accumulation in pit latrines. It seems, that in some cities (e.g. Lusaka) the amount of plastic bags in pits poses a costly problem during pit emptying: forum.susana.org/208-solid-waste-managem...ow-to-avoid-it#23837

I was wondering if anyone knows if there are studies or data available on the amount of plastic waste in pits? What is the actual share of plastics in SW in pit latrines?

So far, I found one paper by Tembo et al. (2019) quantifying the waste content in faecal sludge of 8 domestic pit latrines in Kanyama settlement in Lusaka. The share of plastic waste was found to be 16.7±6.4% of the total SW in the faecal sludge: academicjournals.org/journal/AJEST/artic...ext-pdf/DF8655561153

Can you think of another source stemming from the field of sanitation that might have an impact on the volume of plastics ending up in waterways and the ocean?

I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this issue!

Best regards and happy new year everyone! :)

Christian
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  • muench
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Re: Plastic waste in pits – looking for data, studies, information on the amount of plastic waste in pit latrines

You might have already seen it but if not:
There is this related forum thread:
"Does anyone have an estimate of how much a SaTo pan reduces rubbish inflow into a pit latrine?"
forum.susana.org/sato-pan-latrine-with-c...w-into-a-pit-latrine

Maybe Alice has already found other publications on this topic or has her own data.

Would the amount of plastic waste depend on the income levels of the household? Would it be a matter of "the wealthier, the more plastic waste"? Or "the wealthier, the more formal the solid waste collection system, i.e. plastic waste is collected separately from faecal matter)?

I am curious to see what you or your colleague find.

Cheers,
Elisabeth

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  • Antoinette
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Re: Plastic waste in pits – looking for data, studies, information on the amount of plastic waste in pit latrines

Dear Hans,

My colleagues in Zambia and Tanzania have done formative research on the practice of solid waste disposal in pits (in our programme cities). I can put you in contact if you are interested.

best,
Antoinette

Antoinette Kome
Global Sector Coordinator WASH

SNV Netherlands Development Organisation
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  • BrianReed
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Re: Plastic waste in pits – looking for data, studies, information on the amount of plastic waste in pit latrines

This is a bit of a “how long is a piece of string” question, I have seen photos of pits in South Sudanese refugee camps that filled with water bottles in a couple of days - so they had to be rebuilt with no disposable bottles allowed.

Pit latrines are not likely to be a source of ocean plastic as this is a solid waste (assuming they are ever emptied).

Surface water drains however are major - some significant events after the Haiti earthquake with single use bottles causing flooding in drainage and being washed onto neighbouring islands.

One study that might help is

www.researchgate.net/publication/2284029...Town_as_a_case_study

Regards
Brian

Brian Reed
BSc (Hons)(Dunelm), PGDip (Lond), MSc (N’cle), CEng, CEnv, C.WEM, MICE, MCIWEM, FHEA
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  • Hans Christian Dworak
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Re: Plastic waste in pits – looking for data, studies, information on the amount of plastic waste in pit latrines

Hi everybody,

Elisabeth, it’s a good idea to link up with Alice to see if she found some other publications or if she maybe has collected her own data.

Antoinette, thank you for the offer, I would really appreciate if you can put us in contact.

Brian, thanks for your response. I totally agree, that the amount of (plastic) waste in pits will highly depend on the context. Is there a proper solid waste collection system in place? Are we talking about an urban neighbourhood, an informal settlement or a camp?
It would be interesting to have data for these different scenarios.

Don’t you think once the pits are emptied there is the potential that the contained solid waste will not be handled correctly? Meaning that it will not end up on a disposal site, but rather also in an open drain for example.

Best regards,
Christian
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