“Toilets without taboos”, for a seated and planetary revolution


The subject really concerns everyone, namely the billions of human beings who, every day, will urinate, defecate, in short defecate. Most of them in more or less sophisticated toilets. But a third of humanity does not have access to it and finds itself in the open air, without any hygiene, as in India where an estimated 800 million inhabitants deprived of toilets worthy of the name.

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This amazing documentary, scheduled a few days before November 19, the date chosen in 2013 by the United Nations (UN) to mark the World Toilet Day, accomplishes the feat of mixing scientific information, technical innovations, historical reminders, studies on cultural differences and welcome humorous pastilles. With concrete examples reported from everywhere: from Japan to old Europe, including China, Singapore, South Korea, India and the United States.

Taking stock of how to go pee-poo across the planet is also the way to address many issues: how to save the water usually wasted by Westerners at each emptying of a toilet? How to collect and analyze urine and feces that contain valuable information about our state of health? Or how do we turn our droppings into fertilizer?

Toilets, vital for hygiene and health, have also become a global market estimated at several billion dollars. Going from PC to PQ, Bill Gates, through his foundation, finances a competition for scientists to reinvent toilets and encourage their generalization in poor countries. Objective: ecological equipment that uses little water and is autonomous, capable of operating without electricity or a sewerage system.

Heated seats

Other wealthy personalities, such as Singaporean Jack Sim, head of the World Toilet Organization, manufacture toilets in nearly sixty countries. “For the UN, access to the toilet is a right. But for many, the toilet is still a taboo subject. To break this taboo, we use humor ”, explains Jack Sim, who does not hesitate to launch information campaigns in the streets with young people wearing fake droppings. Still in the register of humor, the South Koreans have opened a theme park on the subject: Poopoo Land.

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Japan is at the forefront of innovation in this area. The models of seats and evacuation systems are more and more elaborate there: “tornado” flushing, heated and deodorant seats, biosensors installed in the bowl making it possible to measure, through excrement, blood pressure or the blood sugar level… There is no shortage of ideas. But the Japanese and Koreans are not the only ones inventing the toilets of the future. In England, researchers have developed a rotating bowl that retains odors.

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The problems of rich countries are obviously not those of India. “Toilets are more important than temples! “, Narendra Modi, Indian Prime Minister, declared when launching vast awareness campaigns. There too, humor has its place: a successful Bollywood feature film telling how a couple was saved from shipwreck thanks to modern toilets has changed mentalities. Toilets, a right for everyone? The UN’s sustainable development agenda has set itself the goal of achieving this by 2030.

Toilets without taboos, by Thierry Berrod (Fr., 2019, 52 min). On demand on Arte.tv until January 12, 2021.

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