Testing the "Tiger Toilet"

Bear Valley Ventures | India, Uganda, and Myanmar
$170,000 | Stage 1: Proof of Concept | Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene

The problem: Access to sustainable sanitation systems

Worldwide, over 4 billion people currently use latrines that can be unpleasant and unhygienic or lack sanitation provisions entirely. Sewered systems will never be a reality for many around the world; therefore an on-site (i.e. a system that does not require piping the waste off-site for treatment) option is needed. Presently the best on-site option is a septic tank, which is often financially out of  reach.

Walter Gibson, Director of Bear Valley Ventures, adds that “Vast numbers of people in the world have to put up with inadequate sanitation every day of their lives. It’s imperative that we develop better, more affordable solutions that address their needs and aspirations for a decent toilet. We believe the Tiger Toilet represents one such option. We are very grateful to USAID for this support which allows us to test its potential.”

The solution: The Tiger Toilet

Bear Valley Ventures

The Tiger Toilet is linked to a normal pour flush system, so the user experience is therefore the same as using a septic tank or a pour flush latrine. The waste then enters a tank which contains the worms and a drainage layer. The solids are trapped at the top of the system where the worms consume it, and the liquid is filtered through the drainage layer.  Extensive laboratory scale trials found that the worms reduce the solids in the system by above 80%, and the effluent quality is higher than that from a septic tank. An initial prototype has been running at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, UK for over a year.

USAID’s Stage 1 investment will support a six-month trial of this Tiger Toilet system in three countries: India, Uganda, and Myanmar. This ambitious pilot will not only test the technology in three different geographic locations, but also in three different contexts: rural communities, peri-urban areas, and a displaced persons camp.  It will be the first trial of the Tiger Toilet with real households.

The potential: Cost-effectiveness, impacts, and implications

USAID’s investment will allow our partners to install Tiger Toilets in 10 households ( around 50-100 people) in each country. Systems will be monitored over six months to test performance and user acceptance. Costs will be compared to those of existing systems and an initial exploration of different routes to scale will be undertaken. Once a market and route to scale has been identified it is hoped that the Tiger Toilet will become a better form of sanitation for low income families around the world.  The aim is to develop the Tiger Toilet at a price below that of the septic tank and in line with that of a latrine: it is hoped that it will become a leap frog technology as it is expected to offer lower maintenance and better performance.  

Contributing partners to this project include Oxfam, Water for People, and PriMove India. The initial development of the Tiger Toilet was funded through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). LSHTM is also supporting the current project by assisting BVV with the user evaluation of the system, which will assess users’ satisfaction with the Tiger System as well as their interest in purchasing the system.


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