A new project from creative activists To.org is attempting to solve two of our planet’s most pressing issues at once: the unequal access to clean sanitation in underserved communities and the accumulation of waste plastic in our oceans and landfills. “In our work in refugee settlements and urban slums, we witnessed first-hand the pressing need for safe and hygienic public and private toilets,” explains To.org co-founder Nachson Mimran.
“From public health and disease prevention to the safety of vulnerable people, including women and children after sundown, they are critically needed.” The resulting project is The Throne, a 3D-printed portable composting toilet made from upcycled medical plastic.
In developing The Throne, Mimran collaborated with Nagami, a Spanish company that specializes in 3D printing and computational design. The studio used its design know-how to create a 3.5-metre tall shell — in the shape of a curving ovoid pod that terminates in a circular skylight — that could be easily transported, assembled and cleaned. “Integrating every function of the toilet in a single print was very challenging, mostly due to mechanics,” says Nagami CEO and co-founder Manuel Jiménez García.
“For example, creating a sliding door or building up layers that grow inwards to create a shelf for hand sanitizer or a toilet paper holder.” The Throne’s off-the-shelf separation toilet is incorporated in a lower chamber, which also stores a wood pulp composting system that can produce chemical-free fertilizer for local crops in the underserved communities where To.org plans to launch the project.
García and his team worked with Dutch firm Reflow to source the plastic, choosing medical-grade waste for its durability and availability in the sector. “The plastic that we use is PETG, which loses only one per cent of its properties when recycled. The project needed to be freestanding and structurally stable, so we needed a high-quality plastic that guarantees its robustness,” García explains.
Late in the summer of 2021, the first prototype of The Throne was placed at a construction site in the affluent alpine resort town of Gstaad, Switzerland. “There is something appropriately provocative about testing a prototype in Gstaad,” Mimran says of the decision. “Historically, we have seen the opposite, with the African continent being used as the test centre for things intended to benefit the Global North.” Once the prototyping phase is complete, Mimran hopes to expand the project into alternative types of shelter, including sustainable solutions for safe and secure housing and community centres.
To.org and Nagami apply 3D printing to the purpose of eco-friendly sanitation.