This profile was prepared when Anders Wilhelmson was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
Anders has created a single use, biodegradable bag that can be used as a sanitary toilet in areas where no other sanitation is available. His innovation is intended to provide more dignified options for people who lacked toilets, and tackle global health challenges posted by poor sanitation. His innovation sanitizes waste and creates a closed loop sustainable waste management cycle, turning the waste into a lucrative resource of viable fertilizer, while also producing employment opportunities and putting communities in charge of their own services. His work goes beyond an incremental improvement to turn waste into wealth, meeting an intractable sanitation problem in a manner rooted in the context of the problem. The temporary solution improvised by community residents used waste plastic bags as ad hoc “flying toilets”—Anders’ innovation creates portable alternatives to infrastructure based facilities. He is building a for-profit company that also creates incentives for waste collection—a lucrative job option for micro-entrepreneurs to collect the bags and sell them as fertilizer. Through the collection program he is creating outlets for communities to construct informal municipal services. Anders is setting up a fluid, flexible alternative infrastructure that can be employed in emergency situations as well as permanent communities of the world’s largest slums, building sanitation solutions around the realities on the ground.