Meet our Nordic Fellow Anders Wilhelmsson
Anders is tackling the sanitation challenge by his innovation The Peepoo bag - a biodegradable bag that replaces the scrounged plastic shopping bags in large-scale use for waste disposal.
His Changemaker journey
Since he was six, Anders knew that he wanted to be an architect and build things from the ground up. Growing up he became fascinated by the uses of space and the rights that revolve around it, for instance how societies address the challenges such as slums.
Anders has established a system of community waste management that can be applied anywhere the bags are used and created a “closed loop” sustainable system
Anders began to craft a theory on “contested space,” that landed him a prestigious char at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, a rare achievement for a “young, long-haired thirty-something.” Anders began to break down the barriers of academia, opening up his experimental architecture courses to writers and artists and building a new travel initiative that brought students to various cities across the world.
While on a trip to Mumbai with his architecture students, Anders visited street dwellers. The women told him, “We don’t need architects—we know how to build.” Hence, he realized that the women did not need helping in this regard—they could buy water, negotiate leases, create shelter, but their enterprise could only reach so far. They did not have sanitation and could not create it from scrap.
Sanitation was their one issue that remained most dominant. Thus, Anders made a bet to his students that he would figure out that major urban problem. With his partner Camilla, Anders began to craft the new idea that would become the Peepoo bag.
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 to tackle global health challenges posed by poor sanitation.
Anders’ 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. Anders’ innovation creates portable alternatives to infrastructure-based facilities.
Anders 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. In addition, through the collection program, Anders is creating outlets for communities to construct informal municipal services.
With the Peepoo bag, 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.