While travelling, several people avoid using public toilets and urinals owing to lack of hygiene, and most importantly for the putrid smell most of them emit. This smell arises from ammonia, which is released when water mixes with urine. To ensure the smell leaves, some of us even flush a second time.
But did you know that each flush in western toilets uses up to six litres of water, while men’s urinals use up to five litres? Moreover, more water is used to wash off the cleaning agent while cleaning the urinals.
However, to ensure water is saved and urinals are kept clean, Mumbai-based water conservationist Neha Bagoria (44) has come up with a simple innovation, EcoTrapIn.
“Using this retrofit device, there is no need for even a single flush. The urinal would need to be cleaned two times a day, during regular use. The device works on a simple mechanical principle, and needs to be placed on the drains of men’s urinals. It allows urine to pass through it swiftly, and a flap placed within it opens up when the liquid passes. It closes once the flow stops,” Neha tells The Better India.
Neha says that to date, 800 devices have been deployed across India, and that they have helped to save 1,67,900 litres of water per urinal, and a total of 190 million litres of potable water.
Determined to conserve water
During her childhood, Neha would travel to Beawar, Rajasthan to visit her grandparents during vacations. Beawar was a water-scarce area, and she was made aware of the importance of saving the precious resource and following water-conserving practices. This included small steps like ensuring the taps are closed tight, and not using water more than required, among others.
Meanwhile, as she grew up, Neha went on to work as a software engineer in Mumbai. However, after four years, she realised she was not satisfied with her job, and that she wanted to work on something that would create a positive impact on society.
“In 2012, I quit my job and took up a project to find a simple solution to save water. After coming across reports on how much water was wasted in urinals and toilets, I decided to focus on that,” says Neha.
Neha started by visiting several public urinals across Mumbai. She would understand how many litres of water were being supplied every day, and calculate how much water is used for flushing them depending on the number of people visiting the facility. Apart from this, she would also take note of the water used for cleaning the toilets once a day.
“I focussed my calculations on the men’s urinals, and realised 1,64,250 litres per year was being wasted for flushing in every urinal, and 3,650 litres for cleaning,” says Neha. “So I began brainstorming solutions that could convert a urinal into a waterless one.”
A simple solution
In 2013, Neha officially launched her company Tapu Sustainable Solutions and began working on her product EcoTrapIn. Within a few months of research, she came up with the prototype of her device and patented it.
“It was fitted at toilets in State Bank of India and the SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai. While the technology was successful, I worked on another prototype after a few months of trial to improve the ease of use. The first model was fit under the urinal, and this required help from skilled labourers. So I wanted to come up with a solution that could be fit by users themselves,” says Neha.
The same year, the project and the findings were submitted to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Government of India. The institute approved the device and funded Neha’s research.
After further research, in 2016, Neha officially launched the finalised prototype of the device and named it EcoTrapInXtra. Made of antibacterial material, the device works on a simple mechanical process. It is fit atop the drain of a urinal’s base and has a flap within it which makes it a ‘dryTrap’. When urine flows through the dryTrap, its density pushes the flap open and allows all the liquid to flow into it. Once the flow stops, the flap is back to its normal position and prevents the smell from emitting through the drain. The antibacterial material, which has nano coating, prevents bacteria cultivation and the formation of foul-odour ammonia.
“The user should not flush the toilet because water mixing with urine leads to the emission of the smell of ammonia. Instead, we provide a cleaning solution named EcoClean which can be used to clean the urinals after every 70 – 80 uses. If more people are using the urinal, it can be wiped down twice a day, however, there is no necessity for water,” says Neha.
The devices are currently installed in Arihant Industrial Corporation, SBI, NGOs like WaterAid and other corporate companies.
Arihant Industrial Corporation has been a user of EcoTrapIn for more than three years. Viren Shah, the chairman of the company, says that it has been installed in their corporate wings.
He says, “There have been no complaints from our employees about the urinals emitting smell. At first, people were doubtful about the hygiene since water was not used to flush, but over time, they have realised that with proper cleaning, it is as clean as any other urinal. Apart from this, the company has noticed a significant cut in water bills.”
If you wish to know more or purchase the DIY version of the device, visit their website.