X-runner, for better health and environment with urine-separating toilets in Lima, Peru

“Today 2.5 billion people in the world live with just a hole in the ground or a bucket in the cloakroom as a toilet. It is a major problem for both the environment and health. Many die, mostly children, for example as a result of coli bacteria,” says Mikael Billsund, MD at Separett.


In the slums of Peru’s dry capital Lima, efforts are being made to solve the urgent problem of lack of access to safe, reliable and dignifying sanitation. “In Lima’s slums there are one and a half million people who only have a hole in the ground as a toilet. There, together with the social enterprise x-runner Venture, we have started to install urine-separating toilets,” explains Mikael Billsund. X-runner has been successfully providing its service for over five years now. The x-runner service consists of the installation of the Separett toilet, a weekly pick-up service and a safe and full-cycle management of the waste. Recently, the organization has installed its 800th toilet, and is now providing over 4,000 individuals, in more than 160 communities of 3 major districts in the southern part of Lima, with a reliable and sustainable sanitation solution.

“Cooperation with x-runner is a non-profit project for us. It is our way of showing our commitment to the world’s population and for the most exposed and poor to be able to have better toilets and, thus, a more dignified way of life,” explains Mikael Billsund.

Better life with the right toilets

X-runner’s system improves the lives of its users on multiple levels. An environmental impact is caused due to the fact that the waste is safely removed from the households and therefore the community. Moreover, dry toilet users save large amounts of water, which is important considering its scarcity in the area. The extensive social impact of the system is mainly related to the improvement of hygiene habits of families and the safety and privacy that the toilet brings to the household.

X-runner´s system has an important impact on the health of its users. “The risk of falling sick from coli bacteria falls; flies and other insects become fewer and no one is upset by bad smells. People’s lives have been changed,” says Mikael Billsund.  Though health impact is difficult to measure, due to external variables such as water quality and the presence of garbage dumps, x-runner manages a set of indicators that specifically measures the transition from using a pit latrine (a hole in the ground) to having a dry toilet with a weekly pick up of the waste.

Some of the major improvements that x-runner brings to family´s concern the possibility for children and pregnant women to safely and comfortably use the toilet. These variables, along with the decrease of smells and insects have a significant impact on the levels of stress that families have to manage. Though it is difficult to truly transmit the difference that the implementation of the sanitation system makes in the family´s daily lives, the testimonies of users speak for themselves:  

“There is a big difference between the pit latrine and this toilet. The pit latrine smells and makes you feel ashamed every time people come visit. The x-runner toilet is more beautiful and more hygienic for everyone.”


“My children prefer to use this toilet over the pit latrine. It is better than the previous toilet because they used to be afraid to go into the bathroom and there wasn´t any light. Now they are more comfortable. The toilet doesn´t attract flies like before, which was what bothered the children most of all.”


“The toilet produces less smell and we don´t have to use any water. Before we wasted water every time we had to use the bathroom.”


“The use of the pit latrine was more difficult and it gave us infections because of the flies - Urinary infections. Many times, some girls up to four times a year. But with this toilet, they don´t get infections.”


Read more about X-runner and their work on their website